The recommendation for the restitution of artworks from the NK Collection issued in April 2001 by the Origins Unknown supervisory committee (the Ekkart Committee), the main lines of which have since been adopted by the government, was limited to artworks which had belonged to private individuals. It was announced that recommendations concerning the problem of artworks sold by Jewish art dealers placed under Verwalters would follow as soon as the research carried out provided a satisfactory basis for a properly considered and unequivocal policy recommendation.
The results of the provenance research carried out so far make it very plain that it is much harder to arrive at clear, cohesive recommendations pertaining to the widening of restitution policy with regard to the art trade than with regard to private individuals. The principle complicating factors are listed below:
- That the art trade’s objective is to sell the trading stock so that the majority of the transactions even at the Jewish art dealers’ in principle constituted ordinary sales
- It is often unclear whether a transaction was made by a Jewish art dealer or by a (‘good’ or ‘bad’) Verwalter, it is even often unclear whether an artwork was part of the trading stock before a Verwalter was appointed or whether the Verwalter himself purchased it
- Besides ordinary art dealers, the majority of whom had been founded long before the war, there were – from 1940 onwards – a growing number of occasional art dealers, both Jews and non-Jewish, who had not established themselves as art dealers, but did engage in the purchase and sale of works of art in a more or less intensive fashion.
These and other complications make it quite clear that it would be incorrect to judge sales by art dealers in entirely the same way as one would judge sales by private owners. If you wish to continue to apply the course set in prior recommendations with regard to private art property to the art trade in a fair manner, the substantiation of the recommendations will require some adaptations. Particularly the recommendation to view sales by private individuals from the start of the war as forced sales unless emphatically proven otherwise cannot be adopted unaltered for application to the art trade.