German Sales, 1930–45: Art Works, Art Markets, and Cultural Policy
Modern art markets and their artistic, cultural, and historical mechanisms have become an important field of study. Although individual art dealers and collectors, as well as specific works of art, have been the subjects of monographic publications and exhibitions, the wider German art trade during the first half of the 20th century has not yet been fully explored. This research is not only important from an art historical perspective; it can also provide new insight into the cultural policy and political objectives of the National Socialist regime during the 1930s and 1940s.
At present information concerning the German art market is scattered among numerous disparate archives and libraries. Auction catalogs are often not even inventoried. There is an urgent need among museum professionals, scholars, and archivists for a universally-accessible database that includes information on all known auctions of the period. The German Sales project was developed to address this need. Although in its initial phase the project focuses on German-speaking countries in the 1930s and 1940s only, its scope will eventually widen to include other countries and decades.
The Getty Research Institute, in partnership with the Kunstbibliothek—Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, and the Forschungsstelle "Entartete Kunst" at the Universität Hamburg, is currently working on locating auction catalogs that record art transactions in Germany, Austria and Switzerland between 1930 and 1945, documenting and digitizing thousands of catalogs in Europe and the United States, and producing a database of these records that will form part of the Getty Provenance Index®. This extensive resource will enable scholars to explore wider issues concerning the German art market, beyond traditional provenance research.
The Getty Provenance Index® includes over one million records documenting the exchange of artworks from the end of the sixteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. Drawn from archival inventories, auction catalogs, and stock books, these records are contained in several databases that, collectively, serve as one of the most powerful and important tools for art historical research on art markets, collecting practices, and provenances of paintings.
This research project will result in a new database within the Provenance Index, a scholarly symposium, and a publication—all of which will facilitate research and enable scholars to better understand the dynamics of art markets. Furthermore, generating new knowledge about the history of the German art market will allow greater interdisciplinary exchange among scholars from a variety of fields, including art history, economics, and cultural studies.