Wednesday 2 May 2018

Germany's funding of provenance, a distraction on return of looted African artefacts

A Benin Bronze from the Ethnological Museum, Germany.

Whatever the good intention of Germany's newly announced funding of provenance for its non-European art collection, silence on  restitution is not golden. 

 A statement credited to German Lost Art Foundation said it will oversee government grants to museums for provenance research into artefacts
acquired from former colonies. Germany's culture minister Monika Grütters, according to reports monitored on the international art scene, assured that the new policy will “secure the financial basis for this research in the long term and to motivate museums to use these research opportunities and develop new forms of cooperation with the countries of origin”.

 Germany's ethnological collection houses quite a volume of artefacts looted - not acquired - from Africa.  Among such artefacts are Benin bronzes currently housed in Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe collection.

 While the minister said the Foundation, which also looks into Nazi-loot, will allocate the government grants, she has pledged government money for six new positions at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. The Prussian oversees Berlin’s state museums. 

 However, another German institution has been quoted of assurance to return looted artefacts of European origins. President of  Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger,   according to agency reports said he would support  guidelines on Nazi-looted art. “We will return stolen objects,” The Art Newspaper quoted him from an interview with the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. "Other artefacts", he said, can be loaned for temporary or travelling exhibitions. 

  From a covert strategy, Germany appears to have designed a provenance funding as a distraction from the real issue of restitution. Clearly, "other artefacts" expression of Parzinger suggests those looted from Africa. But when he said

"We will return stolen objects", he obviuosly meant European artefacts looted by the Nazi during WW2.



1 comment:

  1. You are right. All this is sheer distraction from restitution. They will take hundred years to do provenance research on artefacts that hjave well-known provenance-the Benin artefacts all came from the 1897 loot. What else do they need to know before they return the artefacts to the Oba of Benin and his people? And waht is the NCMM doing on this?
    Our continent is clearly not blessed with energetic leadership.
    Kwame Opoku