Museums partner to grow Asian art provenance researcher community
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Museums partner to grow Asian art provenance researcher community
Lecture by Christine Howald (provenance researcher Asian Collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) at the PREP event in 2017 at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin © SPK/ Gärtner.

BERLIN.- The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution in the United States will cultivate an international network of provenance researchers focused on Asian art. SI is represented by and through the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art. In SPK, the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Asian Art Museum) and the Zentralarchiv (Central Archive) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin) will be responsible for the cooperation. The initiative includes expert exchanges, networking activities and public programs. It is following a three-year German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program for museum professionals (PREP, running 2017-2019), which SPK and SI had jointly set up.

From 2020 to 2022, the two institutions will host “Hidden Networks: The Trade of Asian Art,” a series of webinars focused on dealers and collectors of Asian art. The first event took place on Dec. 3 under the title “C.T. Loo Revisited: New Sources & Perspectives on the Market for Asian Art in the 20th Century” and focused on one of the most important dealers of Chinese and Southeast Asian art of the first half of the 20th century. This program was co-organized by the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Museum Rietberg in Zürich.

The second webinar scheduled tentatively for March 2021 will explore Yamanaka & Co., one of the most significant dealers of Asian art and antiquities in the U.S. and Europe. The series will conclude with a multi-day symposium on new research in Asian art provenance in Washington, D.C., in 2022.

Hermann Parzinger, President of the SPK: “The German-American exchange program for provenance research, which we conducted with the Smithsonian Institution, had the goal of establishing networks and promoting exchange. I am very pleased that, in addition to the numerous personal contacts that have been established in this way, there is also a continuation at the institutional level. Especially the research on objects from the Asian region has so far been overshadowed by other focal points of provenance research, but the first seminar already showed that there is great interest in the topic.”

Christina Haak, Deputy General Director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: “Since the successful start of the Dahlem provenance research team of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin last year, we have been able to intensify research on the non-European collections of the Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst enormously. The expansion of the German-American cooperation, with the focus on Asian collections, is another important milestone in this process.”

Christine Howald, provenance researcher Asian Collections of theStaatliche Museen zu Berlin: “Provenance research is a joint process: the reconstruction and understanding of historical changes of ownership and location of objects can only be done together! Our Webinar series is an important step in bringing together the global research community on East Asian art and creating a sustainable network on which we can rely for the future research of our collections”.

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