AuthorBauer, Adrienne


ISBN 978-1-903987-42-1,342 pp. published by the Institute of Art and Law

The second edition of Museums and the Holocaust, edited by Ruth Redmond Cooper, Director of the Institute of Art and Law, gathers the contributions of renowned specialists in the field of provenance research and related legal issues. This new edition demonstrates the efforts being made since the first edition, written by Professor Norman Palmer, was published in 2000.

While my anticipation was already piqued by the online launch of the book on Holocaust Memorial Day, my high expectations were exceeded.

Divided into three major parts, the book gives a comprehensive overview of the current situation on Nazi-looted art and its connection to museums worldwide. After initial thoughts on the subject by Norman Palmer, Leonie Schwarzmeier, German Lawyer, elaborates on the Nazi legislation, such as the Reich Flight Tax Ordinance of 1931. She shows the economic pressure under which Jewish citizens were forced to sell their possessions and how their property was confiscated. Another contribution presents the legal problems that always arise when works of art pass through many hands within different jurisdictions. Legal issues such as the lex situs rule as well as limitation periods are explained. Since international loan agreements have become indispensable in today's museum practice, due attention is also given to seizure statutes. The general reflections in the first part of the book are rounded off by a contribution by Dr Jacques Schuhmacher, curator at the V&A Museum in London. He summarises the efforts and successes of provenance research in British museums, examining, among other things, the interesting question of how these museums were able to acquire looted artworks even though the respective curators were in some cases themselves Monuments Men. However, the 1998 Washington Conference was a turning point for provenance research in British museums.

The second part of the book shows the successes that countries have achieved in handling Nazi-looted art in museums, as well as the challenges faced. While some countries have established restitution committees, others take a different approach. In the United Kingdom, the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act of 2009 enabled the restitution of paintings and other objects from certain national museums, and the Spoliation Advisory Panel started its work in 2000. Since its inception, twenty claims have been heard by the Panel, five being unsuccessful. The author is critical of the panel's procedure rules and suggest that they should be observed by all parties involved in possible future reforms.

Germany has also set up an Advisory Commission. Until November 2019 it has dealt with...

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