Kunsthaus Zürich


Way back in the 1980s the Kunsthaus Zürich already researched the provenance of all works of the collection of paintings and sculptures that had been acquired from the beginning of the 1930s into the 1950s. The very intensive research conducted by our Collection curator, Christian Klemm, was based on complete and intact documentation. The provenances can be deemed non-questionable. The people acting on behalf of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, the Arts Association of the Kunsthaus Zürich, apparently were well aware of the particular political situation and the dangers implied, and the Kunsthaus repeatedly and successfully came to the aid of threatened collectors. Buyers acted responsibly and purchases were made only if the provenances of the artworks appeared to be fully unobjectionable. There do not appear to be any cases of unjust enrichment at the expense of an individual seller in personal distress. Incidentally, there are not that many works of art that joined the collection of the Kunsthaus during that period, as the main focus of acquisitions was of Swiss art and that of international art was quite exceptional.

The documents were reviewed once again in connection with the development of the main catalogue of paintings and sculptures between 2002 and 2007, with particular attention given to the documents referring to works of art donated to the museum collection since the 1950s. To this day we proceed with the same attention. The provenance of all works has been published in the general catalogue and is accessible to everyone – online as well, beginning in 2018. ‘Provenance of works in the the Collection of Prints and Drawings at the Kunsthaus Zürich‘ (2017-2019), a scientific research project, is now studying the museum’s holdings on paper. For further information on the project see here.

In the case of the occasional request for provenance details of a certain piece, we release information after having verified that the request is justified and originates from a rightful heir. It makes no sense for us (or any other museum, for that matter) to attempt to withhold information and it's a fallacy to think that museums live in fear or could consider refusing to relinquish a work of art that is wrongfully in their possession! It is customary nationally and internationally to handle all requests confidentially, and we abide by this custom. Should it be ascertained that the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft wrongfully holds an artwork, it would be returned it to its rightful owner. By the way, there is not nor has there ever been 'political whitewashing' at the Kunsthaus Zürich by which this subject could have been closed once and for all. We respond to every request with due diligence and present the useful and indeed necessary information so as to shed light on events long past.

This just as brief background information so that you might understand how we at the Kunsthaus deal with an earnest as well as fascinating issue. And if you have now become interested in the provenance of the works of our collection see our main catalogue or the provenances online.


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