The question of researching and establishing the provenance of cultural assets has been at the center of all concerns for decades, and we have already dealt with it here in the NETCHER network. The very notion of provenance is still the subject of debate within the institutions responsible for the protection of cultural heritage.
While many resources already exist on this issue, the collective book Provenance Research Today: Principles, Practice, Problem, edited by Arthur Tompkins, district court judge in Wellington and faculty member of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), brings together many elements and gives a global picture of what provenance research represents in 2020. It is based on the principle that the question of the provenance of a work is central:
“All those involved with art – creators, dealers, researchers, art historians, critics, writers and, last but certainly not least, its viewers – deserve to know the work’s provenance, or lack of provenance, be it the storied histories of famous works of art or the equally storied, but sometimes obscure or confused tales, of less-recognized pieces“.
Five major chapters go back over the essentials of the search for provenance, from its origins to the present day. The history and the challenges of this multidisciplinary subject are evoked, as well as the good practices allowing an efficient search for the origins and tribulations of a work. A chapter is also dedicated to the application of provenance research in museums and the art market. Finally, the question of spoliations of Jews by the Nazis and the current illicit antiques market are addressed.
The book collects articles by renowned experts in provenance research, such as Sharon Flescher, Executive Director of the International Foundation for Art Research, Marc Masurosvky, Co-Founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) and Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition.
Provenance Research Today is available from its publisher here, and on many online sales platforms.
THOMPKINS Arthur, Provenance Research Today. Principles, Practice, Problems, London, Lund Humphries, December 2020, 224 p.
[Image: ©Provenance Research Today, Lund Humphries]