Lafayette will host an international conference Oct. 26-28 exploring the global, historical, ethical, and legal issues surrounding Nazi-looted art during World War II.
The conference is organized by Diane Cole Ahl, Rothkopf Professor of Art History, Rado Pribic, Williams Professor of Languages and chair of international affairs, and EXCEL Scholar Rachel Davidson ’13 (Bethesda, Md.), a double major in international affairs and government & law. The conference is free and open to the public.
It was inspired by the film The Rape of Europa, which details the systematic theft, destruction, and survival of European art during the reign of the Third Reich.
Even though the war ended more than 60 years ago, looted art is still an international hot topic. Provenance issues – the history of ownership – are not cut and dry. There are ethical, legal, historical, and social perspectives that come into play, as well as government, museum, and gallery legal claimants.
“A conference on Nazi-looted art has very contemporary and relevant significance at this point in time,” explains Pribic, who traveled to Germany and Austria last summer to research looted art and its restitution to the rightful owners. “For example, the litigations involving looted art are still ongoing and often unresolved. There are also plenty of other examples in history of looted art across the globe. We approached the conference as an interdisciplinary and international project that will draw great interest not only from the Lafayette community but also beyond.”
Ahl, Pribic, and Davidson knew the only way to properly explore the topic was from an interdisciplinary perspective. The roster of speakers will appeal to a variety of interests. Fittingly, they will open the conference with a showing of The Rape of Europa and an accompanying discussion with one of the film’s producers/directors/writers. The College is especially honored that Austrian Minister plenipotentiary Gregor Schusterschitz will speak about his country’s efforts at restoring stolen pieces to their rightful heirs.
“The conference demonstrates the College’s commitment as an institution of higher learning to investigating issues of global, historical, ethical, and legal significance,” explains Ahl. “We would like those attending the conference to become aware of the issue of Nazi-looted art and its continuing relevance into this century, and about the complexity of the issues from diverse perspectives. It has implications not only for Holocaust and policy studies, but for law, history, art, museum studies, and economics.”
The conference is sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, various academic departments, Hillel Society, and the Max Kade Foundation.
The conference schedule:
- Wednesday, 7 p.m.: Showing of The Rape of Europa followed by a discussion/lecture by Nicole Newnham, one of the movie’s producers/directors/writers; Kirby Hall of Civil Rights room 104
- Thursday, noon: Brown bag lecture by Marc Masurovsky, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., and co-founder of Holocaust Art Restitution Project: “A Primer on Nazi/Fascist Cultural Plunder and the Never-Ending Quest for Justice in the Post-War Era;” Gendebien Room, Skillman Library
- Thursday, 3 p.m.: Lecture by Victoria Reed, Monica S. Sadler Curator for Provenance, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: “Nazi-Era Provenance: The Museum Perspective and the Researcher’s Role;” Gendebien Room, Skillman Library
- Thursday, 4:15 p.m.: Keynote speech by Jonathan Petropoulos, John V. Croul Professor of European History, Claremont McKenna College: “Nazi Art Plundering, Post-War Restitution, and the Restitution Field Going Forward;” Kirby Hall of Civil Rights room 104
- Thursday, 7:30 p.m.: Lecture by Lucian Simmons, worldwide director of provenance and restitution at Sotheby’s, New York: “The Past Comes Back to Haunt Us: Nazi Looted Art in the 21st Century;” Kirby Hall of Civil Rights room 104
- Friday, noon: Brown bag lunch lecture and discussion with Austrian Minister plenipotentiary Gregor Schusterschitz, head of the Department for International Law at the Austrian Ministry for European Affairs and 2011 Max Kade Distinguished Lecturer, sponsored by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Max Kade Foundation: “Late Justice: Austria’s Efforts to Deal with Nazi-Looted Art in Public Museums and Collections;” Gendebien Room, Skillman Library