Provenance Research


Provenance research entails more than clarifying ownership and making amends for historical injustices. It offers new and alternative viewpoints on well-known works. Surprising research findings about the ownership histories of artworks, books, objects and documents from the Akademie der Künste’s collections provided the starting points for the Provenance Research exhibition. Selected examples illustrate the methods and detective work required of provenance researchers and tell the stories behind the works. The show also addresses the repercussions that research findings can set in motion for the Akademie and the complex challenges of reaching appropriate decisions for objects with problematic provenances.

The exhibition addresses a plethora of aspects surrounding the history of ownership ranging from the identification of Nazi-looted art that is now part of the Akademie’s holdings to the ongoing search for artworks from the collection of the Prussian Academy of Arts that were lost during the Second World War. The efforts of the GDR state apparatus to take possession of valuable art objects or entire collections is another subject, which is increasingly playing a role in provenance research.

Among the work presented in the exhibition are manuscripts by the philosopher Walter Benjamin, art critic Alfred Kerr’s collection confiscated by the Gestapo, a sketchbook from Max Liebermann’s estate, oil sketches by Carl Blechen that were presumed lost, and the painter Otto Nagel’s bequest and art collection that aroused greed within GDR cultural politics circles after the artist’s death.

An events programme with panel discussions, diverse educational offers, and a publication with in-depth essays and individual work biographies accompany the exhibition. In a mixed media installation, artist and filmmaker Marianna Christofides engages with the exhibition’s objects and topics.

Accompanying the exhibition, KUNSTWELTEN offers programmes for children, young people and families. In a „forger’s workshop“, young and older guests can paint over pictures, print on them and change signets. Audio guides, produced together with pupils, lead through the exhibition.

Audio Guides

Audio commentaries on 19 objects provide a curated tour through the exhibition. They tell of complex ownership changes, as well as lost and rediscovered works. These examples expose the extent of influence the National Socialist dictatorship, the Second World War and the division of Germany had on the history of ownership of artworks, books and cultural assets.

The audio guide, produced together with students, tells stories from the perspective of various exhibition objects without revealing details. Visitors set out on a trail of discovery to try and locate the exhibits in the exhibition.

Event Programme 

Wednesday, Nov 2, 7 pm
Under the Microscope. 5 Works – 5 Cases

Talk with curators Doris Kachel and Anna Schultz, Werner Heegewaldt (director of the archives), Peter Konopatsch (music archive), Erdmut Wizisla (director Walter Benjamin Archive)
Moderation: Maria Obenaus (German Lost Art Foundation)
In German

Wednesday, Nov 16, 7 pm
Cultural Heritage under Threat. A Look at Ukraine

Talk with Olena Balun (Ukraine Art Aid), Yuliya Vaganova (Khanenko Museum, Kyiv), Olaf Hamann (Berlin State Library)
Moderation: Barbara Welzel (TU Dortmund University)
In German and English 

Wednesday, Nov 18, 7 pm 
Works of art in the crosshairs of the GDR authorities

Talk with Ulf Bischof (lawyer), Uwe Hartmann (German Lost Art Foundation), Werner Heegewaldt (director of the archives) and Doris Kachel (Provenance researcher and curator of the exhibition)
Moderation: Christopher Jütte (German Historical Museum)
In German 

Sunday, Jan 22, 11:30 am
Finissage. Blechen's Comeback
With Stephanie Tasch, Martin Hoernes, Werner Heegewaldt
Lecture: Anna Schultz
In German

Guided Tours

Regular Guided Tours: Tue 5 pm

Curators' Tours: Thur 5 pm and Sun 11 am (except 4 Dec, 25 Dec, 1 Jan) with Werner Heegewaldt, Doris Kachel, Anneka Metzger or Anna Schultz in German language
In English language: 10 Nov + 8 Dec, 5 pm

Curators' Tours for Hearing and Deaf Visitors (with translation into German sign language):
6 Nov + 8 Jan, 11 am

Tours für blind and visually impaired:
1 Nov, 6 Dec + 10 Jan, 5:30 pm

Single admission: € 3 plus exhibition ticket
Groups: € 30/50 plus exhibition ticket per person
Guided tours are free of charge for school classes and visitors with severe disabilities.

KUNSTWELTEN Education Programme

Forger's Workshops: 6 Nov, 4 Dec + 8 Jan, 12 noon – 5 pm

Workshops for school classes with Akademie members Arnold Dreyblatt and Mark Lammert

Registration for special tours and workshops (groups, school classes):

Exhibition Booklet
(included in admission)

Individual sale: € 9, approx. 96 pages, 60 images
Published by Akademie der Künste, Berlin
In German
ISBN 978-3-88331-250-7
Download (PDF)

Archive box with index cards on works by Otto Dix with view of the card Zerstörter Schützengraben, 1918, Otto Dix Archive ©VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2022. Akademie der Künste. Photo: Oliver Ziebe

Alfred Kerr's estate library at the Akademie der Künste © Akademie der Künste. Photo: Oliver Ziebe

Tanzende Paare by Rudolf G. Bunk on the back of the painting Porträt Hanns Meinke, 1935, oil on canvas, Akademie der Künste, Art Collection KS-Painting MA 272 © Akademie der Künste. Photo: Kerstin Marth

Fritz Erler, Schwarzer Pierrot, 1908, oil on canvas, Akademie der Künste, Art Collection, KS Painting MA 221 © Akademie der Künste. Photo: Oliver Ziebe

Fritz Erler, Schwarzer Pierrot [reverse detail], 1908, oil on canvas, Akademie der Künst, Art Collection, KS painting MA 221 © Akademie der Künste. Photo: Oliver Ziebe

29 Oct — 22 Jan 2023

Tue – Sun 11 am – 7 pm

€ 9/6, free admission for under 19s, Tuesdays from 3 pm, every first Sunday of the month and at Closing Event

Audio Guides are free of charge with exhibition ticket

Guided Tours: Tue 5 pm
Curators' Tours: Thur 5 pm and Sun 11 am
€ 3 plus exhibition ticket

Tickets for exhibition

Tickets for Guided Tours

Tel.: (030) 200 57-1000