The administration, cataloguing and scientific documentation of its collection is one of the core tasks of a museum. The Museum der Moderne Salzburg has tried for many years to document the origins of its works of art. Special emphasis is put on works of art created before 1945. These works were acquired by the province of Salzburg in the years 1976/1977 before the foundation of the “Modern Gallery and Graphic Collection Rupertinum” (today Museum der Moderne Salzburg) and were subsequently transferred to the museum. They also include the Modernist collection of the former “Salzburger Landesgalerie” (1942-1944) which was acquired for the province of Salzburg by Friedrich Welz between 1938 and 1945. In 1952 they became part of the collection of Residenzgalerie Salzburg. After the foundation of the “Modern Gallery and Graphic Collection Rupertinum” they were integrated into the holdings of the new museum.
The "Modern Gallery and Graphic Collection Rupertinum“, which was handed over to the public in 1983, is centred on the private collection donated by Salzburg gallery owner Friedrich Welz to the province of Salzburg. At the end of the 1990s it became obvious that Welz played a questionable role in Austrian art trade during the Nazi regime, which was dominated by improper enrichments as a result of "aryanizations" (for example from the Viennese Galerie Würthle, the Villa Steinreich in St. Gilgen and parts of the comprehensive art collection of the Viennese dentist Heinrich Rieger). Provenance research is also carried out for all works acquired by the Museum der Moderne Salzburg through auctions, purchases and donations from auction houses, galleries, estates of artists and private collectors.
1. Complex Provenance Research
Provenance research is a complex and work-intensive process aimed at determining the origin and history of ownership of a work of art. Research into the ownership history of works is particularly difficult for the period from 1933, when the National Socialists assumed power in Germany, followed by Austria in 1938, and so-called “aryanisations”, expropriations, emergency sales and obscure transfers of ownership became the order of the day. Many documents of these transactions were lost after the end of the Nazi regime in 1945, even though numerous archives have been made accessible and searched over the past years. Moreover, the museum was only opened in 1983 and unlike other museums that already existed during the Nazi time and kept records of their acquisitions, does not have any inventories and correspondence from this period. For this reason time-consuming and labour-intensive research is necessary to obtain further information.
The scientific research into and documentation of a museum’s collection includes the analysis of data found on a work of art, such as inscriptions on the back of a painting, notes by the owner, marginalia, dedications, stamps and labels. It also includes an investigation of external materials, correspondence, catalogues of works, documents on artists’ estates, auction and exhibition catalogues, records of domestic and foreign archives and sales documents of art traders containing references to former owners. In addition previous owners and proprietors or their relatives were questioned about the provenance of the individual works of art, if contact could be established. However, a seamless documentation was not possible in every case. Changing attributions, imprecise and incomplete inventories or changing work titles further complicated provenance research. It is also necessary to take into account that some previous owners or proprietors can no longer remember their purchases in the absence of documents or prefer to remain anonymous, that auction houses and art dealers refuse to name their sources and that archive files and documents have been lost or are inaccessible. The possibilities of determining the complete provenance history of a work of art - in particular graphics which are usually less well documented as compared to paintings – are therefore limited.
The research started with the works taken over from the “Landesgalerie Salzburg" (1942-1944). As a next step, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg set up its own department for provenance research in April 2004 whose task is to conduct research into the origin of the works of art which are part of the collection. In the beginning the research work concentrated on the donations by Friedrich Welz, followed by research into the provenance of the paintings and wall objects published in a two-volume catalogue with information and notes on the individual works. These activities were followed by a three-year research project jointly funded by the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne, the provincial government of Salzburg and the Society of Friends and Promoters of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg with the aim to review and catalogue the museum's holdings of drawings, watercolours and collages created before 1945. The research project was finished in autumn 2010. Its results were presented and published in the catalogue “Im Blätterrausch. Drawings, Watercolours, Collages before 1945", including a CD with complete data on every work, and in the exhibition with the same title. The works documented in this catalogue also include a pastel by Berthe Morisot with the title "Jeanne Pontillon à la capeline”, which was part of the collection of the French art enthusiast and collector David Weill and was confiscated and expropriated in 1940 by the Nazi looting organisation “Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg” during the occupation of France by the German Wehrmacht. The questionable origin of Morisot’s pastel was discovered during the course of provenance research on the museum’s holdings of "Drawings, watercolours and collages before 1945". The Salzburg provincial government recently passed a decision to restitute the work to the owner's heirs. The results of the research work are also accessible via a link on the homepage of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg.
Within the framework of provenance research the province of Salzburg has published three books on the relevant works of art now included in the collection of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg. Gerhard Plasser, residenzfähig. Sammlungsgeschichte der Residenzgalerie Salzburg 1923-1938 (Collection History of Residenz Gallery Salzburg 1923-1938), Salzburg 1998. Fritz Koller, Das Inventarbuch der Landesgalerie Salzburg 1942-1944 (Inventory Book of Landesgalerie Salzburg 1942-1944), Salzburg 2000. Roswitha Juffinger und Gerhard Plasser, Salzburger Landessammlungen 1939-1955 (Collections of the Province of Salzburg), Salzburg 2007. The results of this research work can be accessed via a special website page set up by the provincial government of Salzburg under: Link "Salzburger Landessammlungen: Provenienzforschung und Restitution" (Collections of the Province of Salzburg: provenance research and restitution). The Museum der Moderne Salzburg has published the following books on this subject: Agnes Husslein-Arco, Eleonora Louis, Susanne Rolinek, Museum der Moderne Salzburg (Hg.), Vom Tafelbild zum Wandobjekt. Zum Sammlungsbestand des Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Bd. 1 (Tafelband) (From panel painting to wall object. On the collection of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Vol. 1), Weitra 2005. Eleonora Louis, Susanne Rolinek, Museum der Moderne Salzburg (Hg.), Vom Tafelbild zum Wandobjekt. Zum Sammlungsbestand des Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Bd. 2 (Bestandskatalog) (From panel painting to wall object. On the collection oft he Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Vol. 2 (Collection catalogue), Weitra 2006. Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Toni Stooss (Hg.), Im Blätterrausch. Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Collagen bis 1945 (Drawings, watercolours, collages before 1945). Salzburg 2010.