The origin of works in the Museum Abteiberg collection

Museum Abteiberg has a comparatively small collection of classical modernist art, the majority of its exhibits having been acquired in the late 1950s and 1960s. These acquisitions were made not least against the background of the loss of the Kaesbach Collection, a first-rate group of Expressionist works that Walter Kaesbach had donated to the City of Mönchengladbach in the 1920s (1922 and 1928). The Kaesbach Collection was confiscated as part of a Nazi-era campaign to rid the culture of “degenerate art”; most of it, with the exception of a few pieces, was never recovered by the museum.

The end of the Second World War saw the museum attempt to replace these losses to some extent using the resources and options available at the time. Documentation surrounding the origin of artworks and types of acquisitions from the period was incomplete in many cases; although a review of external sources and museum archive documents did allow it to be reconstructed for some pieces, it did not shed light on all.

Ernst Barlach

Wladimir G. Bechtejew

Max Burchartz

Heinrich Campendonk

Theo Champion

Ilja G. Chaschnik

Sonja Delaunay Terk

Otto Dix

Werner Gilles

Erich Heckel

Alexej von Jawlensky

Paul Joostens

Wasily Kamensky

Edmund Kesting

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Boris Kleint

Käthe Kollwitz

Wilhelm Lehmbruck

August Macke

Helmuth Macke

Marie von Malachowski-Nauen

Kasimir Malewitsch

Paul Mansouroff

Franz Marc

Ewald Mataré

Robert Michel

Otto Mueller

Heinrich Nauen

Walter Ophey

Ljubow S. Popowa

Christian Rohlfs

Olga W. Rosanowa

Warwara F. Stepanowa

Nikolaj M. Suetin

Unbekannte:r russische:r Künstler:in

Researching the provenances of acquisitions made between the 1950s and the 1980s

Precisely these unresolved cases became the subject of a systematic investigation conducted between 2016 and 2018. Funded by the German Lost Art Foundation, the study aimed to rule out the possibility that the collection of the city-owned Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach contains unlawful acquisitions. In line with the “Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art” (1998), the investigation sought to identify those artworks in the Museum Abteiberg collection that may have been looted by Nazis and had yet to be restituted, so they can be publicized and the pieces themselves restituted to their pre-War owners or their heirs. Headed by Dr. Vanessa Voigt, the study examined a total of 59 artworks (paintings, sculptures, works on paper) in the municipal art collection.

The findings of the project were initially presented on November 19, 2019 at a public meeting of the Cultural Committee of the City of Mönchengladbach. In 2022, they will be presented to the public in a variety of formats at the museum. A cooperation between Museum Abteiberg and Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf finds students in the “Art Mediation and Cultural Management” master’s degree program—a group led by Filomena Lopedoto— developing methods aimed at conveying the results of this provenance research to various target groups. Investigated works and the related findings will be presented in a “Provenance Research Study Room” set up in the middle of the permanent exhibition starting in October 2022. They will also be posted to the museum’s website as of December 9.

The event marks the centenary of Walter Kaesbach’s endowment: 100 years ago, on December 9, 1922, the Mönchengladbach-born art historian donated 97 works of Expressionist art to his native city.

9. – 11. December

Fig.: Franz Marc, reverse side of Vier badende Frauen am Strand (Four women bathing at the beach), 1909, gouache on paper, mounted on cardboard, 58 x 71 cm, acquired in 1965 with funds from the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach, photo: Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf