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Office of Communication, Events and AlumniPress release no. 238/2019

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Perspectives on the Global History/Histories of the Translocation of Cultural Assets

Monday, 02. December 2019

Press release No. 238/2019

Translocations - TU Berlin’s research cluster headed by Professor Dr. Bénédicte Savoy and funded by the Leibniz Prize - hosts international conference from 5 until 7 December 2019

"Art loot, art theft, scientific raids, trophy art, restitutions, large-scale purchasing campaigns, the history of collections and museums - translocation research is the historical examination of the forms and consequences of the translocation of cultural assets since antiquity. It supplements and deepens provenance research which has been increasingly moving into the realm of public consciousness in recent years,” says Professor Bénédicte Savoy, summarizing the content of the research conducted in the translocations cluster.

Translocations is financed by funding from the Leibniz Prize, which was awarded to Bénédicte Savoy in 2016.

At the start of the project’s third and final year, the translocations research team is hosting a conference with 20 international experts from Europe, Africa and the Americas to be held from 5 to 7 December 2019 in the Faculty Forum of the Architecture Building at Technische Universität Berlin. Drawing upon the latest research findings, the aim is to more closely examine and increase awareness of the phenomenon of the removal and appropriation of cultural assets with all the associated significance, traumas, discourses, techniques and representations.

“I am looking forward immensely to the wide-ranging narrative perspectives of my international fellow academics - academics who research in a wide range of disciplines at universities and museums and who are arriving in Berlin from the Americas, Africa, Europe and Germany to discuss and explore translocation research with us,” enthuses Merten Lagartz, project coordinator of translocations.

Members of the media are warmly invited to attend the conference “Translocations. Historical Enquiries into the Displacement of Cultural Assets”
5 December, 14:00 until 7 December 2019, 13:30
TU Berlin, Straße des 17. Juni 152, 10623 Berlin, Architecture Building
The event will be held in English. Admission is free of charge. No registration is required but the number of places available is limited.

Conference overview

The opening talk given by Professor Savoy (5.12.2019, 14:30) will illustrate the historical layers of the phenomenon of translocation and provide insight into the new academic discipline of translocation research. This will be followed by the first session entitled Translocations: Methods, Challenges and Research Structures, where researchers present methodological approaches drawing upon examples from the early modern period in Europe, South America and Africa.

During Friday morning’s session, entitled Translocations and the Production of Knowledge, talks will be held exploring the locations, paths, concepts and key figures involved in the exchange of knowledge between German ethnology, a British-Indian collection and Russian state museums in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The afternoon session begins with perspectives regarding the changes to cultural assets themselves brought about by translocation. The panel discussion Translocation / Transformation of Object Meaning and Status addresses the dynamics of art loot covering the period from the 14th century until 1945 on the basis of sacred and military objects. The three case studies forming the basis of the session entitled The Space Left behind – Strategies for Dealing with Loss and Absence examine stolen archives, the founding of a museum in Africa and Asian murals in museums.

Saturday morning is devoted to legal aspects of translocation research. The four concluding talks deal with legal and academic perspectives (Legal Perspectives, Developments and Frameworks); these topics are also addressed in the closing discussion commencing at 13:00.

The conference language is English.

The researchers
The conference addresses a number of regions and periods and is hosted by five researchers closely connected to both the Chair for Modern Art History and the translocations cluster.

Professor Dr. Meike Hopp (junior professor for digital provenance research at the Institute for Art History and Historical Urban Studies at TUB since November 2019 ) worked for many years at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich and was part of the Taskforce Schwabinger Kunstfund, which was commissioned with the detailed examination and reappraisal of the array of art works discovered in 2010 in the home of art dealer Cornelius Gurlitt.

After several years working as a researcher in China, Dr. Christine Howald (since November 2019 Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Zentralarchiv und Museum für Asiatische Kunst) focused her research on the reappraisal of the European art market for East Asian artworks and supervised provenance research at the Chair for Modern Art History.

Last year, cultural scientist Dr. Mareike Vennen presented the findings of Dinosaurier in Berlin, a research project closely associated with translocations. Working with Dr. Holger Stoecker and Dr. Ina Heumann in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research-funded joint research project involving HU, the Natural History Museum Berlin and TUB, she conducted research into the Berlin Brachiosaurus Brancai, one of the central pieces of the Natural History Museum’s collection which was translocated from the territory of present-day Tanzania to Berlin at the beginning of the last century as part of the Tendaguru expedition.
As one of the post-doc fellows in the cluster, Dr. Robert Skwirblies supervises work on the emerging text anthology of translocations and researches the emergence of the concept of cultural heritage in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries as part of his translocations case study.

Merten Lagatz is translocations project coordinator and supervises work on the commenting of historical pictorial documents, which will form the basis of the research group’s second anthology to be published in the coming year.

The 17 talks given during the conference will be published in the coming fall together with two anthologies on historical pictorial and text sources and will form the basis for the translocations series produced by the Chair for Modern Art History.

TU research cluster translocations
The project cluster translocations, led by art historian Professor Dr. Bénédicte Savoy of the Chair for Modern Art History, was established in fall 2017 to conduct research on programmatic and systematic translocations of cultural assets since antiquity at TU Berlin and the Collège de France in Paris. A wide range of issues is addressed, including state-organized art theft in times of war and occupation, art loot and the removal of cultural assets during colonialism, the diaspora of entire material cultures created by the art trade, and ideologically based confiscations, nationalizations, and disposals of private property. The cluster builds on the tradition of source-critical and historical as well as art historical transfer research which has characterized the Chair of Modern Art History for more than ten years. Translocations operates in a constantly changing field of debate: Museums, politicians, interest groups and the general public are all involved in questioning, defending and changing the role of public and private collections at the beginning of the 20th century. The research group, which is largely independent of these players, focuses on the interdependence of political, scientific and collecting institutions.

Conference program and information: https://www.kuk.tu-berlin.de/?152514

Further information about the DFG project cluster “translocations”: www.translocations.net
Further information about the Leibniz Prize: www.tu-berlin.de?189290
Translocations. Ikonographie – Blog: https://transliconog.hypotheses.org/


For further information, please contact:

Merten Lagatz
TU Berlin
Institute for Art History and Historical Urban Studies
phone: 030 314 25016


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