Commission for Provenance Research (Kommission für Provenienzforschung) and Beirat (Advisory Board)
The Commission for Provenance Research (CPR) was established by Austrian Federal Minister for Education and Culture Elizabeth Gehrer in March 1998 to research and provide historical documentation on the looting of works of art and their restitution.
Under the 1998 Federal Law 'On the Restitution of Works of Art from the Austrian Federal Museums and Collections', the Austrian authorities were required to initiate the restitution of illegally seized works of art in Federal museums and collections, including the National Library. The role of the Commission for Provenance Research is to investigate acquisitions and accessions from 1938 onwards and to research the archives and provide documentary evidence for each case.
The contents of the archives of the Austrian federal museums and collections are therefore inspected systematically and consistently. Staff members of the Commission for Provenance Research operate in the individual federal museums, where they inspect the inventory, holdings of the archives and objects for provenance clues. With the help of corresponding databases, registries and files the results of the research are summarized in dossiers and are transmitted to the office of the Commission for Provenance Research. The office presents these dossiers to the Beirat, or Advisory Board, established in the Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, according to § 3 of the Art Restitution Act.
The Beirat, or Advisory Board, which holds regular meetings, inspects the dossier and assesses the circumstances according to the requirements of the Art Restitution Act. The Advisory Board addresses its recommendations to the Federal Minister in charge respectively, in this case the Federal Minister for Education, Arts and Culture. The recommendations are published.
The Commission states that its analysis occurs systematically as a result of statutory assignment and does not occur as a result of underlying claims by persons concerned. Nevertheless, the Commission’s office is available as contact and inquiry office as well as coordination office for restitutions of other regional authorities (provinces, municipalities ). The Commission’s and the Advisory Board’s functions are described to the National Assembly in the annual Restitution Reports (“Restitution Reports ” and on the Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture’s website ).
It also undertakes to locate the former owners or their heirs and provide them with the outcome of the hearings of the Advisory Board so that the works of art can be restituted.
It receives many inquiries about missing works of art from owners and their heirs and endeavours thoroughly to research each case.
The website of the CPR provides details of all restitution decisions made since 1998 as a result of this work under the heading Ergebnisse (Results). These are set out in a number of ways, in German only:
1. All decisions are published annually in Federal Restitution Reports.
2. Decisions made between each publication can be reviewed here.
3. An alphabetical list of all families or individuals of whose property restitution has been agreed can be searched here.
This website, (www.lootedart.com), publishes in English the names of all families and individuals in respect of whom resitution decisions have been made since 1999. These can be found by searching at http://www.lootedart.com/search.php and/or by reviewing each Federal Restitution Report published since 1999 which are summarised in English here and which contain details of the works of art to be restituted to each family.
Under the rubric "Archives and Sources" (Archive und Quellen), the CPR website also provides an overview of relevant archival resources in the archives of the Austrian Federal Heritage Office (Bundesdenkmalamt), where the offices of the Commission are located. These include restitution materials, export records and photographs. For the restitution materials, there is a very helpful finding aid for the files relating to indviduals. The finding aid is organised alphabetically by the surname of the person(s) in whose name the file was created and also lists the names of other people mentioned in the file, its timeframe and the shelfmark.
Under the rubric "Projects" (Projekte) the website provides information on forthcoming events, on the Commission's projects and activities. Under the sub-heading "Sought" (Gesucht), it publishes lists and images of works of art from several collections (currently: Dir Ludwig Neurath, Dr Eugen Herz, Sophie and Samuel Kellmer, and Siegfried Kantor) registered as missing by claimants and/or identified as missing during the course of the Commission's research.
There is also a list of Austrian restitution laws and a links page.
The website of the Commission provides information and contact details for the Commission's staff, member museums and institutions and partners in German and English. Commission members include representatives from Federal museums, the Austrian National Library, Viennese museums and libraries, and the Federal Memorial Office. The director is Dr Christoph Bazil, who co-ordinates the investigations.
Dr. Christoph Bazil
Director, Büro der Kommission für Provenienzforschung
Tel: +43 (0)1 534 15 201
Fax: +43 (0)1 534 15 252
Commission for Provenance Research Website <http://www.provenienzforschung.gv.at/>, accessed July 2007 and November 2012.