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Workshop Retrospects 2018

Workshop 3: Restitution of Art: Finding Fair and Just Solutions

Workshop Retrospect: Restitution of Art

Photo: © Körber-Stiftung/David Ausserhofer

Vanessa von Kolpinski

Vanessa von Kolpinski
Art historian and provenance researcher
Berlin, Germany

Björn Schürmann
Director, scenarist and coach
Berlin, Germany

A work of art disappears in times of war. Years later, dedicated researchers come upon this artwork in a national art museum and find out that the Nazis confiscated the piece and that it had been sold several times since then. Morally perhaps a clear-cut case, but legally incon-clusive: Whose art is it?

Twenty years ago, in 1998, more than 40 countries and many international non-governmental organisations agreed on the »Washington Principles« which form the moral and political bases for restitutions in the case of Nazi confiscated art. Can this attempt to right historical wrongs ensure a more peaceful and respectful present? The workshop explored the history of artworks in museums and of their previous owners. Here, provenance research, which deals with the origins and »paths« of artworks, is essential. The participants acquired insights into the toolkit of a provenance researcher. On an excursion to the exhibition »Inventory of the Gurlitt«, they got a glimpse of actual provenance research at the Gropius Bau in Berlin. In small groups, they developed short films that reflect their views on the matter.

The short film summarises the results produced in the workshop “Restitution of Art – Finding Fair and Just Solutions”, organised by the Körber-Stiftung in cooperation with the German Lost Art Foundation. This film premiered during the international conference “20 Years of Washington Principles: Roadmap to the Future” organised by the German Lost Art Foundation on 27 November 2018.


These short films were produced by the participants of the workshop and show their young perspectives on questions of the restitution of looted art.

From the Conference “20 Years Washington Principles: Roadmap to the Future”

Two participants from the workshop presented the results at the Specialist Conference “20 Years Washington Principles: Roadmap for the Future” from 26 to 28 November 2018.

Watch their presentation in the panel “Washington Principles 2018: Perspectives of Young People from Europe” in Section 4: Education and Responsibility here (this is a dubbed English version, for the German original click here)

Check out the conference documentation including videos from the entire conference here.




The workshop was organised in cooperation with the German Lost Art Foundation.

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