Unknown Ownership

Presumably, many art museums hold artworks they do not own and which were never officially added to the holdings or inventoried. It is the typical course of events in an institution shaped by historical events and a vivid exchange with collectors and lenders.

This is also the case here at the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Works once delivered to the Kunsthalle by their owners for their appraisal were not picked up again, for reasons unknown today. Other works were brought to the Kunsthalle for a variety of purposes, were placed in storage and forgotten over the years. Or they were purchased during World War II by third parties and supposedly handed over to the museum only temporarily, yet remained here permanently, while the knowledge of their provenance and history dwindled over time.

Hence, the reasons behind the presence and remaining of these artworks at the Hamburger Kunsthalle are manifold, and many of their stories are largely unknown to us today. It is these mysteries that we are successively trying to unravel. To this end, we will make the status of our knowledge transparent in our Collection Online, allowing other searchers to possibly find answers.

In addition, works created before 1945 are registered in the database www.lostart.de.


Further Reading
If you would like to deal with the topic more extensively, we recommend the documentation on the unknown ownership of the Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz. Volume I is a catalogue of the works of unknown origin stored in the gallery (Irene Geismeier, 1999), Volume II compiles those paintings and sculptures of unknown ownership held by the Nationalgalerie (Rolf H. Johannsen and Uta Barbara Ullrich, 1999), and Volume II covers the antiques from Carinhall from the holdings of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Antiquities Collection (Laura Puritani, 2017).