Reflecting on Restitution, Christie’s Launches Year-Long Global Programme of Events Spotlighting the History and Vital Work of Restitution, Global.
The year 2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the Washington Principles – an international agreement that opened a new era of transparency with respect to art lost or stolen during the Nazi period between 1933 and 1945. Throughout the year, Christie’s Restitution Department will honour this landmark moment with Reflecting on Restitution, a global programme of events.
During 2023, scholars, legal experts, researchers and interested parties will meet in Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Berlin, London, and New York as well as throughout the United States, and Tel Aviv, to share and discuss important stories, ideas and perspectives.
Christie’s Reflecting on Restitution programme begins on 27 January, when visitors will be welcomed to an inaugural public exhibition at Christie’s galleries in Paris. Throughout the year, global audiences will be invited to engage with the programme through other in-person opportunities as well as Christie’s dedicated website, featuring recordings of selected events, stories of important restitution, as well as a virtual walking tour of historic sites throughout Berlin.
In December 1998, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum brought together participants from 44 countries and 13 non-governmental organizations, as well as observers from art museums and auction houses, to Washington, D.C., to address the widespread loss and confiscation of art during the Holocaust era.
This group established and publicly shared 11 Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, which offered a new way forward for victims and their heirs to research, locate, and, where possible, recover missing art and lost histories. The Washington Principles have ushered in a new wave of art restitution and they are the foundation of Christie’s approach to art and cultural valuables that were lost during the Nazi era and to the work of its Restitution Department.
Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie’s Americas commented: “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.”
Richard Aronowitz, Global Head of Restitution added: “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. 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.”
Reflecting On Restitution Calendar Of Events
• 27 January – 10 February 2023, Christie’s Paris
Christie’s “Reflecting on Restitution” programme begins in Paris with an inaugural public exhibition by French contemporary artist Raphaël Denis, held at Christie’s galleries on Avenue Matignon. The exhibition will feature a series of installations that form an extremely precise fragmentary reconstitution of artworks lost to confiscation, looting, or forced sale by Jewish collectors in France.
To mark the opening, Christie’s will host a panel discussion on the Washington Principles and on post-war restitution efforts, including presentations by leading experts David Zivie, Head of France’s Mission for Research and Restitution of Spoliated Cultural Property between 1933 and 1945, and art historian Emmanuelle Polack, together with Claire Gimpel Touchard, a descendant of René Gimpel, Didier Schulmann, emeritus curator, and the artist Raphaël Denis.
• Spring 2023, Christie’s Amsterdam
Christie’s Amsterdam will be holding a roundtable and book signing in celebration of the publication of The Diary Keepers, a new and moving nonfiction book by the American journalist and novelist Nina Siegal, exploring seven diaries written in occupied Holland after 1940, some by Nazi perpetrators, and others by Jewish people. A resident of Amsterdam, Siegal contributes regularly to the New York Times.
• Spring 2023, Christie’s Vienna
Los Angeles restitution lawyer Randy Schoenberg will present a talk at Christie’s Vienna examining the celebrated case of the Gustav Klimt paintings once owned by the Czech sugar magnate Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, which were returned from Vienna’s Belvedere Gallery to the Bloch-Bauer heir, Maria Altmann.
• Summer 2023, Christie’s London
At its flagship King Street galleries in London, Christie’s will host a panel discussion focusing on emerging trends in provenance research. This event will mark both the 25th anniversary of the Washington Principles and the 80th anniversary of the 1943 London Inter-Allied Declaration Against Acts of Dispossession Committed in Territories Under Enemy Occupation or Control.
• Summer 2023, Berlin
In Germany this summer, Christie’s will organise a walking tour focusing on locations where Jewish art dealers and Jewish-owned auction houses once stood, as well as sites where looted art was sold or stored. An accompanying recording will capture the tour for posterity and will be available to all on Christie’s website.
• Autumn 2023, New York
At Christie’s Rockefeller Center galleries in New York, a panel discussion will be presented this fall on the evolution of the restitution process following the Washington Conference.
• December 2023, Tel Aviv
Concluding Christie’s year-long programme will be a conference at The Tel Aviv Museum of Art on restitution and provenance research organised in partnership with the museum, in honour of 25 Years of the Washington Principles.