Renowned auction house boosts efforts to return Nazi-stolen art to lawful owners

Christie’s Auction House honors Nazi-looted art restitution efforts with yearlong, worldwide series of events.

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

The world-renowned auction house Christie’s recently announced that its restitution department will host a series of events throughout the year and around the world in recognition of efforts to return Nazi-stolen art to its rightful owners.

“During 2023, scholars, legal experts, researchers and interested parties will meet in Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin, London, New York as well as throughout the United States, and Tel Aviv, to share and discuss important stories, ideas and perspectives” about art restitution, Christie’s said in a press release about their new initiative.

“Global audiences will be invited to engage with the program through other in-person opportunities as well as Christie’s dedicated website, featuring recordings of selected events, stories of important restitutions, as well as a virtual walking tour of historic sites throughout Berlin.”

The first event will be an exhibition by French contemporary artist Raphaël Denis opening on Jan. 27 at Christie’s galleries on Avenue Matignon in Paris. The exhibit will feature installations that will form “an extremely precise fragmentary reconstitution” of art that was confiscated, looted or forced to be sold by their French Jewish owners, Christie’s said.

The year-long series of events will conclude in December with a conference at The Tel Aviv Museum of Art about restitution and provenance research.

Christie’s series of events, called Reflecting on Restitution, will honor the 25th anniversary of the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, an international agreement that helps with locating, identifying and returning art looted by the Nazis during World War II.

The agreement was established at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, which was hosted by the US Department of State and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, from Nov. 30-Dec. 3, 1998. Representatives from 44 countries as well as 13 non-governmental organizations attended the conference.

“The Washington Principles are the very bedrock of the work that Christie’s restitution team has done for many years: research into the 1933-1945 ownership history of artworks that Christie’s plans to offer for sale,” said Richard Aronowitz, global head of restitution at Christie’s.

“When we discover a loss, or a malign change of ownership, or a forced sale that was not addressed and remedied after World War II, the Washington Principles gives parties the framework to address these issues, even many decades after they occurred.”

Marc Porter, chairman of Christie’s Americas, explained: “The Washington Principles bent the arc of the art world toward ensuring that family histories and the provenance of objects would be unearthed and preserved, and new paths to the resolution of ownership questions could be opened and pursued.

“As someone who was there when The Washington Principles were created, and who has been proud to help create and strengthen Christie’s restitution department, I look forward to continuing our work.”