Method of Research
Researching the provenance of an object is a difficult and sometimes impossible task. Many records of ownership no longer exist. In the twentieth century, a period of great upheaval, many important archives were destroyed either by natural or human-made disasters, such as war. In past centuries, works of art often changed hands without documentation. In addition, dealers often withhold provenance information when their clients request confidentiality. Subsequently, gaps in the ownership history of an art object are not uncommon and can occur in any era. A gap in the provenance of a particular work during the Nazi era does not necessarily mean that it was implicated in an illicit transfer, but it does necessitate further research that may or may not succeed in filling the gap. Works whose ownership can be fully and legitimately documented during the Nazi era can be cleared of suspicion. Even so, the names and provenances of those objects in Europe during the Nazi era will still be disclosed in compliance with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States.
Works with gaps in their provenances between 1933 and 1945 are the subject of further research. If names of some owners are known during this period, they are carefully checked against the World Jewish Congress's Commission for Art Recovery "Provisional List of Names Mentioned in Relation to Art Looting During the Holocaust Era." This list includes the names of collectors and dealers who were victimized by the Nazis, as well as Nazi agents involved in the looting and dealers who facilitated exchanges of illegally acquired works. If a "red flag" name appears in the provenance of a work in the Clark Collection between the years 1932 and 1946, additional information is provided in footnote form. The Clark has taken the additional step of checking these objects against the United States Office of Strategic Services Art Looting Investigation Unit's Consolidated Interrogation Report (1946) and against claims filed with the Art Loss Register, of which the Clark is a member.
Sterling Clark purchased art from a number of Parisian galleries during the World War II era, several of which are mentioned on the World Jewish Congress's provisional list of red flag names. Knoedler and Company, Durand-Ruel, and Neuville & Vivien are identified for selling artwork to Germany during this period, a claim substantiated by evidence from the Schenker documents. It is unclear whether the works these galleries shipped to Germany were illegally acquired. The galleries' involvement with German clients does not necessarily implicate any Clark paintings in an illicit transfer. Where there is cause for concern, additional information will be provided in footnote form to the provenance section of the work in question.
The Clark will continue to update this list as research continues. In addition, the Clark has taken the following steps to assure that any potential claims of ownership will be properly addressed, consistent with both AAM and AAMD guidelines:
- As part of the standard research on any future gift, bequest, or purchase of a work of art, the Clark will continue to ask donors or sellers for evidence of valid title and for as much provenance information as possible with regard to the Nazi/World War II era. If this provenance is incomplete, the Institute will search appropriate databases of unlawfully confiscated art. If there is evidence of unlawful confiscation without appropriate restitution, the Institute will/shall not acquire the object. The Clark will document its findings and notify the donor, estate executor, or dealer of the nature of the evidence.
- In keeping with current museum practice, the Clark will publish, exhibit, and otherwise make known all recent and future gifts, bequests, and purchases, thereby making them available for further research and study. All acquisitions are regularly included in the Clark's published annual reports.
- The Clark will facilitate access to the Nazi/World War II era provenance of all works of art in its collection by continuing its "open-door" policy of access to its curatorial files and by posting object information, including provenance, on its website.
- In preparing for exhibitions, the Clark will review provenance for all incoming loans and will not borrow works of art known to have been illegally confiscated during the Nazi/World War II era and not restituted. The Clark will document its findings and inform the lender of the nature of the evidence.
- In the unlikely event that a legitimate claimant should come forward, the Clark will work to resolve the matter in an equitable, appropriate, and mutually agreeable manner.
- The Clark will cooperate in any third party effort to create databases of claims and claimants, confiscated works of art, and works of art later restituted.