Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art at The Jewish Museum, August 20, 2021 – January 9, 2022

“The Jewish Museum presents Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art, an exhibition that situates 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 are brought forward, often in dialogue with archival documents and photographs that connect them to history. 

Afterlives explores 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 follows 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.” — The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum also commissioned four contemporary artists to create new works that address the resonance of the exhibition’s themes, Maria Eichhorn (b 1962 and based in Berlin), Hadar Gad (b. 1960 and based in Pardes Hanna-Karkur), Dor Guez (b. 1980 and based in Jaffa), and Lisa Oppenheim (b. 1975 and based in Brooklyn).

Pierre Bonnard, French, 1867–1947. Still Life with Guelder Roses, 1892, reworked in 1929. Oil on canvas. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herman R. Sutherland.
Franz Marc. The Large Blue Horses, 1911. Oil on canvas. Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation, Gilbert M. Walker Fund, 1942.
Max Pechstein. Landscape, 1912. Oil on canvas. Estate of Hugo Simon. © Pechstein Hamburg / Tökendorf / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; image provided by CNAC/MNAM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, New York. Photo by Philippe Migeat.
Henri Matisse. Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar, 1939. Oil on canvas, 25 x 19 1/2 in. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; image provided by The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, New York.
Henri Matisse. Daisies, 1939. Oil on canvas, 36 3/16 x 25 5/8 in. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; image provided by The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, New York.
Marc Chagall, French, born in Vitebsk, Russian Empire (now Belarus), 1887–1985. Purim, 1916 or 1917. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963.
Paul Cézanne, French, 1839–1906. Bather and Rocks, between 1860 and 1866. Oil on canvas, transferred from plaster Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
George Grosz, American, born in Germany, 1893–1959. Approaching Storm, 1940. Oil on canvas board. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, purchase.
Kurt Schwitters. Opened by Customs, 1937 or 1938. Paper, printed paper, oil, and graphite collaged on paper. Tate, London, purchased 1958.
Gustave Courbet, French, 1819–1877. Nude Reclining by the Sea, 1868. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963.
Henri Fantin-Latour, French, 1836–1904. Self-Portrait, 1861. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon.
Room of the Martyrs, view from left. Archives du Ministère de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangère – La Courneuve.
Orphaned ceremonial objects in temporary storage at the Jewish Museum, c. 1949. Archives of the Jewish Museum, New York.

Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art is organized by Darsie Alexander, Susan and Elihu Rose Chief Curator, and Sam Sackeroff, Lerman-Neubauer Assistant Curator, The Jewish Museum. The exhibition is designed by Daniel Kershaw with graphic design by IN-FO.CO, Adam Michaels. Abigail Rapoport, Curator of Judaica, assisted in selecting ceremonial objects for the exhibition

Images courtesy The Jewish Museum.