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'Degenerate Art' Research Center


Art History Department of Freie Universität Berlin
Koserstr. 20, 14195 Berlin
Rooms A186 and A187

Mar 01, 2003 — Dec 31, 2018
Contact Person:
Research Center "Degenerate Art"


The Research Center for "Degenerate Art" was established in March 2003 at the Art History Department of Freie Universität Berlin. From April 2003 the Center has been concurrently based at the Art History Department of the University of Hamburg, with its own special research focus.

Since its founding, the Center has been primarily funded by the Ferdinand Möller Foundation (Berlin). The Gerda Henkel Foundation (Düsseldorf) has supported a research assistant's position since 1. July 2005. Since 2016 the research center is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, State Minister Monika Grütters.

Topics and projects

Primary research focus is on the methods of National Socialist art politics, especially the background, history and consequences of the confiscation of modern works of art in German art museums by the National Socialists in 1937. Included in this focus is research on the anti-modern propaganda exhibitions from 1933 onwards and on the travelling exhibition "Degenerate Art" of 1937 to 1941. In this context the Center is investigating the fate of the artists concerned, the strategies of museum directors and the role of art dealers within the artwork disposal system.

At the heart of the research is the production of a complete register of the works of "Degenerate art" confiscated from German museums in 1937. This Inventory of Confiscated Works has been produced as a databank and is accessible via the Internet since the publication of its core data at the end of 2008.

The publication of the initial 8 volumes of a series affords highlights and overviews of the research up till now.

The Center's research work is closely connected with the courses taught at the Department. Seminars are offered on varying topics from the research field. In particular students are introduced to the systematic collection and evaluation of archive material. Topics for Magister final papers and for dissertations are suggested with reference to areas of study within the Center's research field.

The topic of restitution

Following numerous restitution claims for "Cultural artifacts confiscated as the result of Nazi persecution", the Research Center has received many inquiries from affected museums on the provenance of their own collections and on how to deal with the question of restitution. This led initially to the Center's compiling a Dossier on Nazi art politics and their repercussions on private collections, with a chronology of culture-political processes in Germany from 1933 onwards, spotlighting the problems of proprietary rights in connection with confiscations from former private collections.

In addition, in summer 2006, with the support of the Ferdinand Möller Foundation, an initiative was begun to encourage the building of an information network for the support of museums in dealing with restitution claims. With this aim, a number of discussions were held in the Kulturstiftung der Länder (Federal Culture Foundation) with representatives from federal and state governments, the German Museums Association, the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg (central office for the documentation of lost cultural property) in Magdeburg , the study group for provenance research and the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation). The negotiations with the German Museums Association and the former Minister of Culture Bernd Neumann lead to the foundation of Arbeitsstelle für Provenienzforschung that is today part of Deutsches Zentrum Kulturgutverluste.



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