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Chair for Modern Art HistoryArt Theft from the Perspective of the Dispossessed

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Art Theft from the Perspective of the Dispossessed

About the Seminar


Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy & Merten Lagatz


Michelle Arbashe | Eva Maria de B. C. Namyslo | Hinnerk Beetz | Vera Bogner | Eda Brandmayer | Clara Brender | Josefine Dreesen | Max Fromm | Mica Fuchs | Isabelle Gebhardt | Anna-Maria Glöckner | Antonia Grunenberg | Kassandra Häffner | Lisa Haußels | Nele Heinrich | Julia Herzog | Paul Hoffmann | Magali Horn | Cornelia Hübner-Sawel | Hui-Ju Hsu | Vanessa Karras | Dominika Konsek | Carolin Kralapp | Wanda Lehmann | Denis Linsner | Janine Löper | Alina Möhrer | Jutta Moldehenner | Inka Nogossek | Belinda Pönicke | Karina Reece | Andrea Reinhardt | Louis Reiss | Valentino di Roma | Mathis Ruffing | Stephanie Seiler-Torbuk | Daria Weidemann | Franziska Zörner




What is art theft? Who is affected by it? How are the origin stories of art works told in museums?

These are the questions participants in the BA Project Seminar "Art Theft from the Perspective of the Dispossessed" attempted to answer by examining historical and contemporary discourses around the violent and forced displacement of cultural assets. The ways in which stolen and looted art is talked about was the focus of several interviews, recorded and produced by the students.

In addition to engaging with an intensive study of historical sources – from Cicero's great speeches and the writings of Verres to perspectives from contemporary Post-Colonial Studies – students also examined the heritage of various museum objects. Special attention was paid to objects that are currently part of the collections of various Berliner museums and have complicated provenance histories (including the Pergamon Altar, the Bust of Nefertiti, the Throne of Mandu Yenu from the kingdom of Bamun, the Mschatta Facade, the "Turfan Höhlen" and the Benin Bronzes).

Workshop in der Werkstatt der Kulturen


Students also had the opportunity to participate in a workshop with a group of indigenous Australian activists, where they engaged in intensive dialog with actors directly involved in the debate around restitution. The activists, Rodney Kelly, Roxley Foley, and Vincent Forrester, travelled through Europe helping raise awareness for the Fate of the Gweagal Shield which is currently housed in the British Museum.

Over the course of the project seminar, students generated over 500 minutes of material from interviews with over 50 people, including other students, relatives, museum visitors, and activists. These interviews served as the basis for discussion and reflection in plenum. The interviewees were asked to reflect on their own relationship to the museum as institution, on the protection of objects, and the meaning of object provenance. They were also asked to position themselves on the debate surrounding restitution. The interviews were filmed and used to produce this short film, "To Whom Does Cultural Heritage Belong?"

"Deins? Meins? Fake!"

Would it be an option to return collection objects that have colonial provenances to their original owners and make replicas to be displayed in European museums? 

Taking a lively seminar discussion as his departure point, Paul Hoffmann explores this question in his article for TU Intern's April 2017 Issue. Click here for the article - German only


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