Fritz Erler's Schwarzer Pierrot (Black Pierrot), 1908, Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Art Collection, and his Fechter (swordsman) hidden underneath, title page of the magazine Jugend, Oct 1905, issue 18 (montage)

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. They tell stories from the perspective of various exhibition objects without revealing the title, artist or owner. Visitors follow a discovery trail to find the exhibits in the exhibition.



Wednesday, Nov 2
7 pm, 

Unter die Lupe genommen. 5 Werke – 5 Fälle
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, Talk 

Kulturgutverluste heute – Ein Blick in die Ukraine 
with Olena Balun (Netzwerk Kulturgutschutz Ukraine), Yuliya Vaganova (Khanenko-Museum, Kyiv), Olaf Hamann (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)
Moderation: Barbara Welzel (TU Dortmund)
In German and English 

Wednesday, Nov 18
7 pm, Talk 

Kunstgut im Fadenkreuz der DDR-Behörden 
with Ulf Bischof (lawyer), Uwe Hartmann (German Lost Art Foundation), Werner Heegewaldt and Doris Kachel
Moderation: Christopher Jütte (German Historical Museum)
In German 

Guided tours

Tue, 5 pm
With the curators:
Thur, 5 pm and Sun, 11 am (except Dec 4, Dec 25)

Exhibition booklet (included in the entrance fee)

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

Archive box with index cards on works by Otto Dix with view of the card Zerstörter Schützengraben, 1918, Otto Dix Archive © 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 2022 — 22 Jan 2023

Fri, 28 Oct, 7 pm, free admission

Tue – Sun 11 am – 7 pm

€ 9/6

Free admission for under 19s, Tuesdays from 3 pm and every first Sunday of the month

Further information

Health and Safety Regulations