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MoMA and Nazi-Era Art Restitution: Contexts and Thoughts for the Future


MoMA and Nazi-Era Art Restitution: Contexts and Thoughts for the Future

Le, Tiffany-Quan (2017) MoMA and Nazi-Era Art Restitution: Contexts and Thoughts for the Future. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Holocaust-era restitution remains one of many issues troubling the museum world in recent years. These types of cases expose the persistent concern over ownership of the material culture held within museums that, in part, make up the philosophies and cultural traditions underlying them. In the wake of the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, the American museum community asserted they could properly regulate restitution claims without need for an independent commission, as was being established in many European countries at the time. This thesis reflects upon developments following 1998 and assesses the current value systems of American museums and their commitment to the international issue of restitution by examining the actions and policies of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. Since the establishment of the Washington Conference Principles, museums holding Nazi-era misappropriated works have continually tried to mischaracterize applicable policy. MoMA has not only experienced difficulties resulting from its early acquisitions, but in recent years, it has been very visible in a series of recent restitution claims and debates.
This thesis argues that MoMA could set a different example, through its statements and actions, for Holocaust-era restitution by acknowledging its historical complicity and urging other institutions and the public to go beyond notions of possession. MoMA is an institution that has undoubtedly become more complex and internationally implicated in the past few years. However, the issue of restitution and its inadequate treatment in the United States has brought into scrutiny museums like MoMA, impacting upon the public’s willingness to place confidence in the museum in its role as trustee of works of art. I contend that, should MoMA wish to maintain its position of influence in the museum system in the United States and abroad, it needs to become more invested in the future and be conscious of how it is transmitting memory and the meaning of the past to an increasingly transnational and diverse public. Although this case study examines the treatment of Nazi-looted art in one American institution, the issues under consideration have transferable moral significance across the larger debate of stolen cultural property.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Le, Tiffany-Quan
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:30 August 2017
Thesis Supervisor(s):Mackenzie, Catherine
ID Code:982899
Deposited On:09 Nov 2017 16:20
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:56
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