Art objects that are (almost) certain to have been looted, confiscated or sold under duress between 1933 and 1945 may be returned to the heirs of the original owner under the Dutch restitution policy.
Restitution of art lost during the Second World War
During the Second World War, tens of thousands of art objects were taken from the Netherlands to Germany. They were sold in some instances, but also looted or confiscated. A part of these works were returned to the Netherlands after the war and placed in National Art Collection.
Up through the 1950s, various works were returned to the rightful owners. What remained was housed in the Netherlands Art Property Collection known as the NK collection (Nederlands Kunstbezit) which is part of the National Art Collection. The NK collection contains paintings, works on paper and applied arts such as furniture and ceramics. These artworks are given on loan to museums and a number are on display in government buildings.
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Information and advice
As of 2022 a new central information and contact point for the restitution policy has become available. The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) offers its services to all those seeking information on the National Art Collection and on restitution. It is the first point of contact for potential rights holders and collection managers with respect to the restitution policy, the procedure to be followed and provenance research. In this way, the Agency aims to facilitate submission of requests for restitution.
Researchers can request information about how to conduct provenance research and can be referred to available archives and organizations that may be of assistance here.
In addition to answering questions and providing advice, the Agency plans to provide education and to share knowledge. By compiling and disseminating as much information as possible, the Agency aims to provide its best possible support for provenance research and the identification of possible rights holders.
For questions, information or advice please contact the Agency via email@example.com.
The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) is resuming its structural research into the provenance of objects in the Netherlands Art Property Collection (NK Collection). In doing so, the RCE is continuing the work previously conducted by the former Origins Unknown Agency between 1998 and 2007. The research has now been extended to include a new research period (1933-1940).
Recent studies, the increasing digitisation of national archives at home and abroad, and hitherto unknown or inaccessible information are likely to bring new leads to the surface. Part of the new research also includes re-photographing all objects, both front and back, and documenting all clues – such as texts, numbers and labels – that can be found on them and that may lead back to the original owners or whereabouts of the object.
In order to facilitate this intensification of the provenance research, RCE has expanded the team with six additional researchers. There is an independent committee which oversees the project. This committee monitors the quality of research and assesses whether it meets the standard required to determine the provenance of objects from the NK Collection as accurately as possible.
The NK Collection in Collectienederland.nl
Information about the NK Collection had been brought together and made available from June 2021 via the website wo2.collectienederland.nl. In this portal you will find information about the characteristics, restitution status and provenance of the works in the NK Collection, past and present. The information will be updated and expanded continually in the coming years. The available information about the NK Collection is centrally accessible and searchable by everyone.
Museum Provenance Investigation
Not all works that were looted before or during the Second World War in the Netherlands are part of the NK collection. This applies, for example, to works that were purchased many years after the war.
Dutch museums have investigated the provenance of their acquisitions from 1933 onwards, and works that possibly have been looted are registered on the website musealeverwervingen.nl.
Under Dutch law, the statute of limitations on restitution cases has expired. However, the present possessors may return works voluntarily. In most cases this happens on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War, also known as the Restitutions Committee. The Dutch restitution policy is premised on a just and fair solution as set out in the Washington Principles. These principles advocate identification and publication of Nazi-confiscated art, archives that are open and accessible to researchers, implementing steps to achieve just and fair solutions and instituting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.