Provenance is used to denote the history of ownership from the time an art object is created until it is acquired by the Gallery. Provenance can help establish an object's 'pedigree' and contribute to a better understanding of historical trends in collecting. The location of an object at a particular time can also suggest influences it may have had on the work of other artists. Provenance is also used as a means of confirming legal ownership of an object.
Provenance research aligns with existing codes of ethics for museum professionals and demonstrates the Gallery's acknowledgment of a moral obligation to determine whether there are objects in its possession to which it may not have legal title.
It can be difficult to produce an accurate history of an art object, as not all owners are inclined to maintain documentation which records the movements from one party to another. Such documentation can also be either abandoned intentionally or lost by accident, during peacetime or periods of civil unrest and armed conflict. Objects which are passed on as heirlooms within families are often accompanied by oral history, which becomes distorted or lost within a generation or two, and objects sold through dealers and auction houses are frequently consigned on the understanding that the identity of the vendor remains anonymous. All these circumstances can make it extremely difficult for the researcher seeking to compile an accurate and unbroken history of ownership.
Consistent with the practice of other institutions, the Gallery's provenance research results are published on our website to ensure accessibility by the public and other researchers, including those who may be able to add to the provenance information already held. Information gathered in this manner can assist the Gallery complete its documentation and, in the event that it identifies an illicitly traded object, to restitute that object to its rightful owner.
For further information contact:
QAGOMA Provenance Research Team
ASIAN ART PROVENANCE RESEARCH
QAGOMA observes the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970, to which Australia is a signatory. The Gallery follows stringent procedures to establish detailed provenance documentation and proof of ownership and origin, adhering to Australian and international museum best practice, including the Australian Government's Best Practice Guide to Collecting Cultural Material, Museums Australia's Code of Ethics for Art, History & Science Museums and the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. The Gallery consults lost and stolen art registers and local organisations where appropriate.
The Gallery has embarked on a project to research the provenance and compile further documentation of works within the Asian Art Collection. QAGOMA acknowledges recent allegations of fraudulent dealings in international antiquities and the introduction of new guidelines by the Federal Government with respect to the handling and collection of this material. While this is a small Collection area for the Gallery, a small group of objects have been identified as requiring further research. These include works with incomplete chain of titles, or those requiring further evidence of provenance details.
It is important to note:
- No claims have been made against the works of art listed here.
- Gaps in provenance do not indicate that a work of art was looted or stolen. In some cases, this is a reflection of the age of the works in question and their history of collection over long periods of time
- The Gallery has never purchased works from Subhash Kapoor.
ASIAN ART OBJECTS WITH INCOMPLETE PROVENANCE
A list of seven works from South and South-East Asia is published here. The Gallery welcomes any information that may cast light on gaps on the provenance of these works. The supplied chain of ownership for these objects is currently being reviewed and further research is underway. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
NAZI / WORLD WAR TWO PROVENANCE RESEARCH
The subject of Nazi art loot rose to prominence following allegations that some objects confiscated or looted from individuals during the Nazi/World War Two era, and still unaccounted for, could be found in the collections of galleries and museums around the world.
In December 2000, in response to initiatives taken by European and American museums, the Gallery established the Provenance Research Project – Nazi / World War Two Era. The purpose of this project was to formally examine its catalogue and pursue further research in an effort to confirm the Gallery's good title to particular objects in its Collection.
Research began by looking at the scope of some 219 works in the Gallery's Collection of European origin which were produced before 1946 and acquired from 1933 onwards. More than half of these were objects by British artists, however, and were discarded from the group leaving only those which may have been in continental Europe during the relevant period. Other objects were also discarded from the group as they indicated satisfactory provenance details from 1933 to 1945. Prints and decorative art objects such as ceramics, metalwork and furniture were omitted due to the problems associated with attempting to distinguish between non-unique objects. Research then focused on remaining works, especially those that had gaps in their records, or vague or inaccurate information about their ownership during the Nazi/World War Two era.
Two listings subsequently appear on this website: 'Restituted objects' and 'Objects with incomplete provenance data'. The first includes objects which were taken from their rightful owners during the period of Nazi rule, but were restituted prior to acquisition by the Gallery. The second identifies objects which have gaps in provenance during the period 1933–45.
The volume of art objects restituted to their owners or heirs after having been confiscated, sold under duress, or stolen during the course of the Nazi era makes it entirely plausible that these objects could have been acquired later by museums.
Research undertaken to date has revealed that the Gallery's Collection contains a painting which had been confiscated by Nazi officials and eventually restituted to the rightful heir of the individual from whom it had been taken. The details of this object and its history appear on this list, as will any further objects identified in this category.
The provenance data cited includes information about the known movements of those objects from the time they were taken from their owners, until they were returned.
The Master of Frankfurt
On the back of the painting Virgin and Child with Saint James the Pilgrim, Saint Catherine and the Donor with Saint Peter c.1496 by the Master of Frankfurt is a small circular label that catalogues the work as number 509 in the collection of Oscar Bondy, Vienna. Accompanying Bondy's label is the inscription 'OB 1304', the format often used by Germany's Nazi party to document confiscated art works. Bondy was a Jewish connoisseur and collector who acquired the painting in 1928; his collection was confiscated by the Nazi party in 1939.
In tracing the original inventory with the Kommision für Provenienzforschung of the Austrian Government, it was confirmed that 'OB 1304' was the Nazi identification number for the painting by the Master of Frankfurt. Next to the entry for the Master's painting in the Nazi inventory is the stamp: 'Kunstmuseum Linz', referring to its proposed inclusion in the Führermuseum, an art museum planned by Adolf Hitler for the Austrian city of Linz.
16 April 1980
(lot 27) (Sotheby's, London)
Norton Simon Foundation, Los Angeles and Pasadena
Duveen Bros., New York
Shirley Falke Collection, Lennox, Massachusett
3 March 1949
(Kende Gallery, New York)
Oscar Bondy Collection, Vienna
Restituted to Elisabeth A Bondy, widow of Oscar Bondy, New York
Retrieved by allied forces and released via the Central Art Collecting Point, Munich, to government officials of Upper Austria
Collection of Oscar Bondy confiscated by Nazi officials; painting allocated to the Führermuseum, Linz
Collection Hugo Perls, Berlin
Duke of Anhalt, Gothic House, Wörlitz, Castle of Dessau, Germany
Nazi / World War Two Objects with incomplete provenance
The objects in this list are included because there are gaps in their ownership histories between 1933 and 1945. The research team believes that its enquiries have exhausted the references available and these objects are listed in the hope that others may be able to contribute the missing details.
The presence of an object in this list does not imply that it has been associated with the illicit activities of the Nazis or the haphazard looting which occurred at various times during World War Two. Objects can be included because they show a connection to a collection which was confiscated, or to an individual reported to have been involved in the trafficking of objects on behalf of, or to, the Nazis. The majority of objects appear in this list because the research team has been unable to secure fully documented information and cannot confirm ownership for all, or part, of the period 1933–1945.