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Louvre-Sotheby’s Join Hands For 3-Year Restitution Research Project

The Louvre Museum has announced three-year restitution research, backed by Sotheby’s, to investigate its collection acquired between 1933-1945.

The original research by Louvre Museum was launched in 2020, headed by historian Emmanuelle Polack. The objective was to look into all the works acquired by the Museum in the years during and leading up to World War II. The reason was the prevalence of artworks stolen from collectors (usually Jewish) by the Nazis, or sold under duress by the collectors before fleeing. So far, Polack has identified 10 artworks that once belonged to collectors who had to flee during the Nazi regime. Louvre had acquired around 14,000 artworks during the period of 1933-45.

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In a statement, Louvre Museum said that the ongoing research will be sponsored by Sotheby’s. The Museum also hinted that the result of the research could lead to restitution. As part of the deal, Louvre will produce public programs related to restitution. The first event in this series on Jan 27 will screen films dedicated to the topic, including a 2021 documentary chronicling Polack’s research.

Sotheby’s auction house was the first international auction house to have a dedicated restitution department, founded in 1997. The department conducts thorough research into the provenance of every artwork put up for sale at the auction house. The department is also responsible for mediating disputes between current owners and heirs of original owners when such a case occurs. However, the deal with Louvre is the first major partnership Sotheby’s had for the restitution efforts.