01 July 2013

Kerfuffles about provenance research training and art restitution

What does it matter where one is from and what title one carries as an adornment or what professional relationships one benefits from to get ahead in the world?

Provenance research training is designed to transcend petty nationalisms and chauvinisms as well as self-interested power plays designed to divide, splinter, factionalize men and women who have no other interest but to learn, share, and improve themselves and the environment in which they work and research, refine or correct their methodologies and analytical strategies to reach answers that bring them closer to that elusive quest for the historical truth. Of course, none of us reach it, it is a bit like the Holy Grail, but the quest itself provides us with a bounty of answers and new questions that make this adventure well worth it.

To those who believe that there are geopolitical approaches to provenance research, that one’s nationality and culture are essential to fathom the complexities and specificities of cultural plunder and all matters relative to the disposition of art objects, no one can stop you from being divisive; frankly, there is room for all of us on this planet. If you earnestly believe that there is a Czech or Polish or German approach to provenance research, then bless your heart;

To those who have been involved for years or decades in “art restitution” matters writ large, whether for pleasure or for profit, maybe the time has come to rethink your involvement in these matters and assess the extent to which you are more interested in protecting your imagined spheres of influence than doing what is right and working to genuinely make a difference by promoting greater transparency in the art world, improved access to and sharing of information pertaining to the history of ownership of cultural objects; and to fashion reasonable national and international instrumentalities that transcend market and government interests and are truly rooted in a quest for justice for the victims of plunder and their issue. Otherwise, it might be time to pack it in…
Definition of Kerfuffles, Source: Merriam-Webster via Google