TEACHING: “Tracing Brandhorst: Re-Imagining a Collection” at Museum Brandhorst, Munich, July 2022.

From July 11th to 15th, 2022, Lynn Rother taught a course on tracing objects from the private collection of Anette and Udo Brandhorst, which now form part of the permanent collection of Museum Brandhorst, Munich. Comprised of thirteen undergraduate students from Leuphana University, the course took place for the most part at the museum itself and was accompanied by the museum’s curator, Giampaolo Bianconi.

Students were each assigned an artist and an artwork from the Brandhorst collection—ranging from Andy Warhol’s ‘Round Marilyn’ (1962) to Cy Twombly’s ‘Nini’s Painting’ (1971)—and asked to prepare object sheets detailing, among tombstone data, the collecting and exhibition history of the artwork. At the end of the course, they were then asked to deliver oral presentations contextualising the reception of the artwork at the time of its acquisition. Indeed, the course was aimed at trying to understand, first and foremost, the collectors and their decisions at the time. What moved the Brandhorsts to buy artworks from the neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s and, later, from the offshoot movement known as “critical postmodernism”? Furthermore, how do we archive and catalogue such information today, as the museum prepares for the reinstallation of its permanent collection in 2023? How does a museum dedicated to contemporary art deal with its increasingly ageing collection? Such were the questions raised and discussed in Munich.

NEWSLETTER REPORT: “A New Approach to Provenance: The ‘Provenance Studies’ Program at Leuphana University Lüneburg”, 05/31/2022.

For the May 2022 newsletter of the Network of European Restitution Committees on Nazi-Looted Art, the Provenance Lab published a report on the outlook and activities of the ‘Provenance Studies’ program at Leuphana University Lüneburg.

In the report, the Lab observes that they are the first university research program producing Provenance LOD. “Such a transformation”, the report continues, “requires a shift in perspective: from provenance as a sequence of ownership periods to provenance as a sequence of events, which mark the beginning and end of consecutive ownership periods. That is, from an object-centered perspective to an event-centered approach.”

You can read the report in full here.

PANEL DISCUSSION: “Frenemies? – Provenance and Art Market Studies”, 02/17/2022.

On February 17th, 2022, Max chaired a panel discussion called “Frenemies? – Provenance and Art Market Studies”, hosted by the The International Art Market Studies Association (TIAMSA). Against the backdrop of digitalization of research and knowledge production, as well the increasing availability of art market information, the panel brought together three experts in provenance and art market research to discuss shared challenges: Executive Director of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc., Elizabeth Gorayeb, head of The Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance at the Getty Research Institute, Sandra van Ginhoven, and the director of the Provenance Lab, Lynn.

TEACHING: “Old Knowledge, New Techniques – Understanding Museum Data”, Winter Semester 2021/2022.

In the winter semester 2021/2022, Lynn and Fabio co-taught the seminar “Old Knowledge, New Techniques – Understanding Museum Data” as part of the Media Cultures module of the Digital Media Bachelor, a joint degree of Leuphana University and Hamburg Media School. The teaching proposes an experimental hybrid learning of provenance studies with digital knowledge representation.

“In the brave new electronic world, few bastions of the humanities have withstood the march of technology more tenaciously than the art museum.”

—Everett Elin, 1969

With the first Executive Director of the Museum Computer Network, Everett Elin’s, observation in mind, students were provided with theoretical and practical insights to critically analyze the current digital practices of museums in publishing art provenance online. On the one hand, the course presented the traditional methodology of provenance studies, providing literature and case studies. On the other, with continuous cross-disciplinary references, students learned the techniques and logic necessary to publish structured and machine-readable knowledge. These notions thus allowed students to practice what they had learned, experiencing the potential and the limits of the multidisciplinary approach. Working in groups, the students produced new and unique application scenarios of digital art provenance. Below you will find some examples of their work.

Fundamentally, the seminar was an opportunity to experiment on an educational level with what is already taking place at the Provenance Lab. It was motivated by the belief that academic training with a hybrid background is essential for providing institutions with adequate museum professionals who can meet digital challenges head-on.

AUTHORS: Nele Husen, Melanie Neuer, Hannah Prasuhn and Luise Pohlmann.

CONCEPT: “On a large screen in the museum there is a map of the world and a timeline, on which colourful dots represent different artworks. On Tablets or smartphone visitors can choose paintings, events and people they would like to learn more about.”

AUTHORS: Lelia van Hees, Isobel Hingston, Viktoria Dorothea Kamps and Nemanja Pulja.

CONCEPT: “Provenance data is displayed on a map paired with timestamps, making visible the space and time dimensions of a painting, as well as its possible network dimensions. This map is both accessible on the museum website and by way of a QR code in the museum itself .”

AUTHORS: Rebekka Skjørestad Halter, Marek Jakob Gollan, Charlotte Albert and Felizitas Klara Sophie Bader.

CONCEPT: “An interactive exhibition game in which school children go on a journey through time and space to track down a painting, collecting provenance data along the way. A trained educator guides them through the game, filling in any gaps and providing further context.”

TEACHING: “Collecting Women”, Winter Semester 2021/2022.

In the winter semester 2021/2022, Lynn and Max co-taught an undergraduate course on the role of women collectors, which also addressed the question of collecting, curating and displaying the works of female artists. The occasion for the course was the 50th anniversary of the publication of Linda Nochlin’s groundbreaking essay “Why have there been no great women artists?” While feminist art history has since had far reaching consequences in the field of art history, highlighting in particular the role and accomplishments of female artists, the course took the anniversary of this foundational text as an opportunity to expand the view on the role of women in the arts.

The course combined the fundamental insights of feminist art history with more recent approaches, themselves an outgrowth of the feminist turn, to look at ongoing structural oversights within the field of art history. The way art history continues to be written today perpetuates structural biases and exclusions, manifesting themselves in places as varied as wikipedia, or indeed, in museum databases. Therefore, the class took a historical approach to the variety of activities women in the arts were engaged in to draw out a much richer picture of female entanglements in the world of art, not only as muses or artists themselves, but also as actors in the art market and as collectors. As part of the course, the class visited the retrospective of the leading surrealist Toyen at the Hamburger Kunsthalle to analyse contemporary engagements with the historical biases.

CONFERENCE PANEL: “Digital Provenance and the Art Market”, 01/22/2022.

On January 22nd, 2022, on a panel called ‘Art Market, Art Trade, Cultural Property Smuggling’, Lynn talked to her colleague Meike Hopp about digital art market and provenance research at the annual conference ‘Collections – Provenance – Cultural Heritage 6.0’, hosted by the Julius-Maximilians University Würzburg. This year, the focus of the conference was expanded to include aspects of digital collection. Among other things, Lynn and Meike discussed historical art market realities, such as joint businesses, the role of agents versus owners on the auction market and the challenge of recording the complexities of provenance research in a structured way. This is especially difficult, they concluded, when you want to include all the nuances and uncertainties.

CONFERENCE PAPER: “Modern Migrants – Provenance Studies at Leuphana”, 11/19/2021.

From November 17-19th, 2021, Fabio participated in the Second Culture Community Plenary of the NFDI4 Consortium for Research Data on Material and Immaterial Cultural Heritage. In his talk “Modern Migrants – Provenance Studies at Leuphana”, Fabio presented the project Modern Migrants: Paintings from Europe in US Museums at Leuphana University Lüneburg, which aims to digitally collect, structure and, ultimately, analyze data on modern paintings from Europe in US museum collections, with the view to generating knowledge about art markets, the circulation of artworks, and other networked aspects of art history. Using the provenance of Pablo Picasso’s ‘Harlequin’ (1915) as an example, Fabio’s presentation focused on the challenges of extracting knowledge from provenance texts, as well as the possibilities and limitations of natural language processing.

TALK: “Driving L’Arlésienne”, 10/27/2021.

On October 27, 2021, Lynn participated in the workshop “Infrastructures of Producing, Transporting, and Logistics in Transnational Perspective“, organised by the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. In her talk, entitled “Driving L’Arlésienne: Transporting Paintings during National Socialism”, she highlighted and analysed the complexities of transporting art during the war, with a particular focus on the fate of one painting, van Gogh’s “L’Arlésienne”, as well the odyssey of its owner, Marianne de Goldschmidt-Rothschild, who had to endure a great deal before she could find a safe refuge for herself and her artwork.

CONFERENCE PAPER: “Towards an Emancipated Provenance Research”, 04/20/2021.

On April 20th, 2021, Lynn delivered a closing remark at the annual conference of the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V., which, this year, went by the title “Searching for clues and coming to terms with the past – the state of provenance research in Hamburg”. Lynn’s talk, “Towards an Emancipated Provenance Research”, argued that provenance research is, fundamentally, not a temporary but a long-term project, and, if given time, will be able to “unfold its scientific and memory-culture potential, especially in cultural heritage institutions and at universities”.

PUBLICATION: “Provenance Research in Museums: The Long Run”, 12/03/2020.

On December 3rd, 2020, Arthur Tompkins’ released his reference handbook ‘Provenance Research Today: Principles, Practice, Problems‘ co-published with Lund Humphries, London, and the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR). Together with Iris Schmeisser, Lynn co-authored an article in the handbook called “Provenance Research in Museums: The Long Run”.

“To illustrate the shift from ‘traditional’ art-historical to interdisciplinary Nazi-era provenance research and its challenges”, the article centres upon the complex history of a Swiss landscape painting by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, which, over the course of many years, and multiple re-visits to its provenance, changed both names and date. In the conclusion to their article, Lynn and Iris thus argue that provenance research in museums is not only “case by case”, but also “as much about history as it is about historicity”.

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