Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art. Courtesy of The Jewish Museum.
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The Jewish Museum will present “Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art,” an exhibition that will situate the subject of art looting during World War II within a unique thematic premise, focusing on the seizure and movement of works as they traveled through distribution centers, sites of recovery, and networks of collectors, before, during, and after the war. The exhibition includes paintings, drawings, and Judaica that survived this traumatic period of violence and upheaval against tremendous odds. By tracing the fascinating timelines of individual objects as they passed through hands and sites, their myriad stories will be brought forward, often in dialogue with archival documents and photographs that connect them to history. The exhibition will be on view from August 20, 2021 through January 9, 2022.

During World War II untold numbers of artworks and pieces of cultural property were stolen by Nazi forces. After the war, an estimated one million artworks and 2.5 million books were recovered. Many more were destroyed. The exhibition and the accompanying catalogue trace the layered stories of the objects that survived, exploring the circumstances of their theft, their post-war rescue, and their afterlives in museums and private collections.

Afterlives will include works by major artists that were looted from Jewish collections during the war as well as treasured pieces of Judaica. Rare examples of Jewish ceremonial objects from destroyed synagogues; works by such renowned artists as Pierre Bonnard, Marc Chagall, Paul Cézanne, Gustave Courbet, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Camille Pissarro, among others; and rarely seen archival photographs and documents will all be on view.  Visitors will be able to see 53 works of art, 80 Jewish ceremonial objects, a range of photographs and archival documents, and new commissions by four contemporary artists: Maria Eichhorn, Hadar Gad, Dor Guez, and Lisa Oppenheim.

Seventy-five years after the Second World War, “Afterlives” will explore how surviving artworks and other precious objects were changed by those events; how they have moved through time, bearing witness to profound historical ruptures while also acting as enduring carriers of individual expression, knowledge, and creativity. The exhibition will follow the paths taken by works of art across national borders, through military depots, and in and out of networks of collectors, looters, ideologues, and restitution organizations.