Kunsthaus Zurich launches new strategy on Nazi looted art

Swissinfo 14 March 2023

The Kunsthaus Zurich museum says it is strengthening its provenance research and giving itself more resources to deal with the problem of ill-gotten cultural property.

“In future, the Kunsthaus Zürich will adopt a more proactive approach to works that, following in-depth research, may constitute cultural property confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution,” the museum said in a press release on Tuesday.

The new strategy includes “improved transparency” and an independent, international commission of experts to support provenance research. The museum says it is working for “just and fair solutions” where there are substantiated indications that works are held unlawfully.

It is giving priority on provenance research to its own collection and to new acquisitions. The Bührle Collection, which is on display in the Kunsthaus, is being analysed separately. Zurich historian Raphael Gross was recently appointed to evaluate the provenance research carried out to date by the Bührle Foundation, which owns the works. The results of this assessment are expected in spring 2024.

“The strategy we are presenting today establishes a clear framework for the challenges that lie ahead,’ said Philipp Hildebrand, chair of the Zurich art society that runs the museum.

The move comes after heated debate about the origin of 203 works of art on display at the Kunsthaus Zurich. The controversy is about the collector of the paintings: Emil G. Bührle, who died in 1956, funded his collection with arms sales – to Nazi Germany in particular. An independent panel of historians have called the situation at the Kunsthaus Zurich an “affront” to victims of Nazi looting.
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