20 November 2018: Spoliation Action Plan
Following the September 2017 UK Spoliation Conference '70 Years and Counting: The Final Opportunity?', the recommendations that emerged from each panel and which were summarised in the final session, were compiled as an Action Plan and published on the UK Government Spoliation webpage. The governments of the UK, Austria, France, Germany and the Netherlands have agreed the Action Plan as a shared statement of intent. Last month, October 2018, representatives of the five claims panels of those countries met in London and agreed to create a permanent working group to promote closer engagement, improved information sharing and to address the recommendations in the Action Plan. Further details of the working group are to be announced .
The recommendations include establishing common definitions of loss, consistency of criteria, procedure and standards in claims handling, producing best practice guidance and providing central sources of information for claimants in each country. To see the Action Plan, click here.
Update October 2022
The Spoliation Action Plan was adopted by the five Restitution Committees and led to the formation of the Network. Each committee which has presided over the Network since 2018 has been free to set its own objectives to some degree but the Network has always sought to retain a focus on the Action Plan from the 2017 Conference and to share information and collaborate on casework which was always the main purpose of the Network.
In 2018 Dr Charlotte Woodhead of Warwick University was commissioned by the DCMS and the UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel to produce an expert analysis and proposals relating to recommendations arising from the 2017 London Spoliation Conference. This early work also undertaken with Tony Baumgartner (deputy chair of the Panel) addressed Recommendation 3 relating to common definitions of loss and forced sale and inconsistencies of process and information between the committees. In 2019 Dr Woodhead published Implementing Recommendation 3 of the 2017 London Conference Action Plan which is available to read here.
The newsletter of the new Network, established in October 2018, includes an article on the new French 'Mission de recherche et de restitution des biens culturels spoliés entre 1933 et 1945' which will work closely with the CIVS ((Commission pour l’indemnisation des victimes de spoliations) in the first instance to examine files on looted cultural property in French collections. Its four experts, appointed by the Prime Minister on 7 May, are Mrs Inès Rotermund-Reynard (art historian), Mr Dominique Ribeyre (auctioneer), Mrs Claire Andrieu (professor at the Institut d’études politiques in Paris) and Mr Xavier Perrot (professor at the Faculty of Law of Economic Sciences in Limoges). The structure and policy of the new French system is set out here. The newsletter also includes articles about the recent decisions of the Austrian panel re Ephrussi and Felsövanyi, of the German panel re Emden, of the Dutch Committee re Lierens and Kirstein, and of the Austrian review of one of the 266 looted artworks in Austrian custody since the 1960s which provenance research easily established had belonged to Louis Rothschild once archival material was digitised at the end of 2017. There is also a presentation by the Dutch Committee of its history, composition, tasks, powers and procedures.
To read the first newsletter, published in March 2019, click here. This includes an editorial by Michel Jeannoutot, chair of the CIVS, who writes:
What is the Network about? It is a question of creating a strong link, but one that respects the distinctiveness of each committee, whose action is carried out within a national institutional framework with its own history and specific legal rules. Based on the exchange and sharing information and know-how, our Network offers a new response to the effectiveness of provenance research and the moral requirement of “clean museums”.
The third newsletter of the Networks of European Restitution Committees includes an editorial by Fred Hammerstein, chair of the Dutch Committee, who raises the question of definitions and asks 'what is actually meant by Nazi-looted art?'. He writes: 'It is not yet clear ...in which circumstances there is a ‘forced sale’ or ‘sale under duress’. An important issue, for instance, is the extent to which the loss of possession has to have been a direct consequence of the Nazi regime. And how should one address art that was sold while someone was on the run? In addition, how should a claim be processed if evidence is no longer available? The Washington Principles say that this should be taken into account, but not how. Obviously the answers to such questions are of interest to all five committees. I hope that cooperation between the committees and the sharing of experience and ideas in the Network can make a major contribution.'
To read the newsletter, click here.
The latest Newletter has an editorial by chair of the German Commission, Hans-Jürgen Papier, who writes that the Network is important since "all commissions are dealing with similar problems in the handling of their cases, such as how to deal with gaps in the provenance of an item which, despite intensive research, can not be closed; also dealing with the so-called «Fluchtgut» is one of the aspects that are discussed intensively. For this reason, I am very confident that the network has created another important measure, which will strengthen the work of the commissions in terms of identifying and returning Nazi-looted property and finding fair and just solutions."
Elsewhere in the Newsletter is the 2018 annual report of France's CIVS; advanced notice of a report for the Network by Dr Charlotte Woodhead, to be published in November, on how each committee operates and the differences in approach in determining claims (Recommendation 3 of the 2017 Spoliation Action Plan); a report on the 2011 successful claim by the Budge heirs for three Meissen figures in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; and the 'presentation' of the Austrian Art Restitution Act and the two bodies created as a result, the Commission for Provenance Research and the Advisory Board.
To read the Newsletter, click here.