Research Projects and Resources :

Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte München - Central Institute for Art History Munich

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI) in Munich is the only independent art historical research institute in Germany. As a research institution with both national and international orientation and networks, the Zentralinstitut is a locus of art historical research. With its rich program of scholarly events open to the public the ZI understands its role as a forum for scholarly exchange and discussion of current methodological issues and topics in art history.

The ZI has one of the largest and most significant art historical libraries worldwide, counting over 560,000 volumes and around 1,100 current periodical subscriptions. These join the image holdings of its photographic archive (c. 900,000 items) as well as numerous international online resources and databases to make the ZI a major service institution offering outstanding opportunities for art historical research.

Since 1979 the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte has stood under the sole sponsorship of the Free State of Bavaria and is assigned to the Bavarian State Ministry for Education, Culture, Science and Art.

Research at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte is thematically grouped in the fields object and materiality, art history as knowledge and academic discipline, and art in historical-political space and global context. In addition, the Study Centre on Modern Art / Duke Franz of Bavaria Library offers a particularly well-equipped research platform for studies regarding art and art history of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The ZI is decidedly independent of any national framework or research agenda. This open research horizon is ideally suited for comprehensive contemporary research issues in the age of post- and transnational networking. The position and function of a research institution with both national and international orientation particularly require identification of overarching groups of related topics and organizing cooperative work on these projects.

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, founded in 1946, is located in the Munich “Kunstareal” and thus in direct proximity to the nearby museums, universities and academies, making the institute a privileged venue for art historical research and scholarship.

Institute Website:

To explore the full range of projects and resources, visit the website. A selection of resources is set out below:

Some of the Resources at the Institute

Library: The library of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte is a reference library with over 560,000 volumes, among them the Duke Franz of Bavaria Library on Modern Art, around 1,100 current periodicals and over 50,000 auction catalogues, and counts among the largest art libraries internationally. See

Photo Study Collection: The photographic archive of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte is one of the largest photographic study collections on European art history from the early medieval period to the twentieth century.  The holdings are freely accessible for all visitors and organized in five sections:

  • Topography (architecture and urbanism, alphabetically according to country and location)
  • Artists (visual arts, alphabetically by name)
  • Museum topography (anonymous works in collections, alphabetically according to location)
  • Illuminated manuscripts (according to location)
  • Applied arts (according to material and repository location)

Some parts of the holdings are organized in separate independent special collections, as for instance items from the estate of Erich Meyer or the Schrey collection.

The photographic archive possesses over 900,000 media items. Included in this is the “Bildarchiv der deutschen Kunst” (Pictorial Archive of German Art) with 275,000 photographs, assembled between 1961 and 1975 with the support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.

In addition to around 770,000 black and white photographs, among them many historically valuable photographic prints from the second half of the nineteenth century, the photographic archive owns a large number of colour slides and negatives, which for the most part are also available in digital format.

Focuses of the Collection:

  • German topography
  • Cathedral architecture in Germany and France
  • Central European wall and ceiling painting
  • Paintings on panel of the pre-Dürer era
  • Medieval applied arts
  • Manuscript illumination
  • Art of the National Socialist period

The photographic archive of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte is a member of the Arbeitskreis kunsthistorischer Bildarchive und Fototheken (AKBF), founded in 2004.


Provenance Research / Value of Cultural Assets:  A historical, ethical, legal, economic and political clarification of the fate of artworks before, during and after National Socialism represents a central responsibility for Germany. Academically, this task decisively affects art history – in collaboration with other disciplines from philosophy through contemporary history to legal studies. The art thefts perpetrated by the National Socialists constitute the main focus. Nonetheless a pioneering approach must be more theoretically, geographically and historically based. This requires a comprehensive scientific basis for theory and action. In addition to basic research on the art market, art dealers, the actors and networks of the “art system”, the status of non-European cultural assets in German and western collections also counts as subjects to be examined. Research on the value of cultural assets in historical development, on their relocation and on international rules and standards formulated to protect those assets is highly relevant in light of recent events in conflict areas and war zones.

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI) was founded in 1946/1947 as an independent research institute in direct connection with the Central Collecting Point (CCP) of the American military government in the former Administrative Building of the National Socialist party. For over 20 years the institute has been researching and publishing its findings on the art history of National Socialism and that of the immediate postwar era. In the specific area of “Provenance Research / Value of Cultural Assets” numerous research, inventory, digitization and database projects have been initiated by the ZI and achieved with various national and international collaborative partners.

In its library and photographic archive the ZI has excellent, and in some respect, unique resources at its disposal, especially for provenance research. Due to this infrastructure and its independent, open-ended research approach the ZI is repeatedly consulted for advice as well as assistance (among others by the state offices of criminal investigation in Berlin and Munich). The series of colloquia on provenance and collection research has established itself as an international platform for discussion, exchange and the presentation of projects.

Since 2009 Prof. Dr. Wolf Tegethoff as director of the ZI has been a member of the so-called Limbach Commission (Beratende Kommission im Zusammenhang mit der Rückgabe NS-verfolgungsbedingt entzogener Kulturgüter, insbesondere aus jüdischem Besitz).

The ZI is a founding member of the “Forschungsverbund Provenienzforschung in Bayern”, established in 2015.


Details of specific projects, publications, events, etc, can be found at:


Correspondence with the Zentralinstitut 27 October 2015, and the Insitute's website accessed on 30 October 2015