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The translocations research cluster was a research project which investigated the displacement of cultural assets from a historical perspective. It ran from 2017-2020.

The project was funded through the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft’s Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize awarded to Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy.

Cooperations (as of January 2018):
- Collège de France, Paris
- Deutsches Archäologisches Institut
- British Museum, London

More about translocations

About the Project

The territorial displacement of cultural assets in times of both war and peace is of greater relevance than ever and there is no doubt that this issue represents one of the great challenges of the twenty-first century. The implications of this issue range from moral imperatives to shifts in cultural politics and academic research.

The project will focus on large-scale displacements of cultural assets since antiquity such as: art theft and spoliation organized by the state in times of war and occupation, seizure of cultural goods during colonialism, displacements as a result of a partition of excavation discoveries and research expeditions, a material diaspora of entire civilizations expedited by the art trade, confiscations justified through ideology, nationalisations, or en masse disposals of private property. By shifting our concentration to the translocations as such – the actual phenomenon of the transfer itself, with all its traumas, discourses, actors, gestures, techniques and representations – we hope to shed light on an important topic which has hardly been recognized, and certainly not fully researched.

By means of detailed research studies (Art theft and Trophy enterprise in Antiquity | translocations and religion | “Europe and the Discovery of the World” in the Middle Ages and early modern era | Diasporas of Cultural Objects in recent and early modern times | Expropriation and translocation of cultural goods in the context of the great wars of the twentieth century) the cluster intends to produce four fundamental projects:
-       a digital atlas
-       a text collection
-       a glossary
-       an image repertory on the iconography of translocated cultural goods.

These four fundamental projects will be made accessible to the public using web-based presentation tools. As a theoretical understanding of this phenomenon is a main aim of the project, findings will also be shared with the public via publications, workshops, and conferences.

The project cluster synergizes three of the Chair for Modern Art History’s main research areas: Art Theft in a Global Context, Transnational Museum History, and Art Markets and Provenance. Students of the department will get to partake in the work of the cluster through research-based learning.

Further Reading


translocations Project Outline
Deutsch  /  English


Interview with Bénédicte Savoy regarding the choice of the term translocations
English  /  Français


Bénédicte Savoy's Interview regarding the Humboldt Forum with Sueddeutsche Zeitung



Cooperation Agreement with the British Museum Signed

Starting this year, the Chair for Modern Art History's translocations research cluster will begin a collaboration with the British Museum in London. A cooperation agreement was signed by the director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, Bénédicte Savoy, and TU President Christian Thomsen in Berlin.

This collaboration will take the form of concrete projects: A conference is currently being prepared for Fall 2018 in Berlin, a research colloquium for doctoral students and established researchers will take place at regular intervals, project seminars with TU Berlin students have been planned, and collaborations in the field of digital research will be in focus. 

For further information see the TU Press Release

Journal for Art Market Studies - Issue on "Translocations and the Art Market"

In early 2018 the Journal for Art Market Studies is planning an issue on the subject of "Translocations and the Art Market". It will focus on the role of the art market in territorial displacements of cultural assets since antiquity. The context for this issue of the journal will be the wide research area outlined in Translocations. The issue will have circa 12 contributions.

Looted Art – Victims’ Perspectives (Winter Semester 2016/2017)


In this BA project seminar, students worked to gain an understanding of historical and contemporary discourses surrounding the violent displacement of cultural assets. The seminar included a project, in which students used their knowledge of discourses to formulate and conduct interviews with different actors in the debate.


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