5 Books on Art Provenance A Shelfie from Kelly Davis, Research Assistant at the Getty Research Institute
Hi, I’m Kelly Davis, research assistant in the Getty Provenance Index at the Getty Research Institute. My background is in English, but I graduated with a master’s of library science and a master’s in art history from Pratt Institute in 2014. Books have been an important part of my life since I can remember. These are 5 that inspire and aid me in my work.
One of the first books to focus on Nazi-era provenance and also one of the most famous. The publication of this book in the early ‘90s launched an international interest in the repatriation of art looted from Jewish art dealers and families during World War II and encouraged organizations to create guidelines such as the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-era Confiscated Art (1998) and the AAM Guidelines Concerning the Unlawful Appropriation of Objects During the Nazi Era (2001). It inspired me to focus on provenance in my art historical studies and might have been the first step to where I am today.
While at the Last Bookstore in DTLA a few years back, a good friend of mine pulled this book out and handed it to me, exclaiming that she loved it and I had to read it. Somehow I hadn’t heard of it, but it piqued my interest as I enjoy nothing more than a gossipy read about the inner workings of established museums. While this isn’t about provenance specifically, and is more “pop” than some of the other academic texts on this list, it’s a fun and fascinating story and will certainly intrigue any lover of museums.
This, along with a small stack of other books written by J.H. Duveen, or about the House of Duveen by those with intimate knowledge of it, have been gracing my desk for months. Like Knoedler & Co., Duveen was instrumental in the migration of European art to America in the early 20th century, and also like Knoedler, the Getty Research Institute owns the Duveen archive. Here in the Provenance Index, we’re interested in seeing what more we can do with stock book records we have on site, so I’m boning up on my knowledge of this great firm. These books are older primary sources, meaning what is said in them could be quite subjective. Of course, this is also what makes them so delightful.
This book was a gift from Dr. Frima Hofrichter, one of my mentors in graduate school. Frima knew I had been accepted to the internship program here at the Getty, and what gift better than one on provenance published by the GRI and edited by Gail Feigenbaum, one of our esteemed associate directors? If Nicholas’s book was my introduction to “pop” provenance, this was my introduction to the academic career path ahead of me. A collection of essays on topics from collector’s marks to provenance in the Third Reich, reading this acquainted me with a number of respected scholars in the field, and names I would encounter during my time at the Getty.
The quintessential reference for provenance research, not so much a book you read but one you keep coming back to. Although the guide is being refined as we move forward in the 21st century (see the ArtTracks project at the Carnegie Museum of Art for more info), this book is still the standard for curators, librarians, collectors, and anyone else involved in provenance and the history of collecting. It’s been invaluable for the past few years as I’ve worked on the Knoedler & Co. stock books database. The appendices are particularly useful to a researcher, with information on dealer archives and locations, as well as a list of “red-flag” names to watch out for when dealing with World War II provenance.
Slow lorises may look like big-eyed Ewoks, but their cute countenance has made these primates a target of the illegal wildlife trade. Join Mary Blair, primatologist and Director of Biodiversity Informatics Research at the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, as she discusses how research on these endangered animals can contribute to a better understanding of wildlife trafficking, including the risk of zoonotic disease spread.
i’m really interested right now in the disconnect between revolutionary actions in the past that we celebrate and the similar actions in the present that we scorn as useless and unjustifiable or else ignore because of their illegality. like, how so many people read Assatta Shakur’s autobiography and praise her as a thinker and activist, but then forget that her work and analysis culminated in her choosing to go underground as a fighter in the BLA. and just as importantly, we forget that the conditions she identified as justifying (at the very least) that kind of resistance against all-encompassing anti-black state violence are still felt today. i don’t think she said this outright in her writing, and it’s a curious omission if so, but the BLA (according to Prof. Akinyele Omowale Umoja‘s research) was motivated to pursue those armed actions, in part, as a form of self-defense against the police, in light of the rampant killings of black women and children by police at the time (police who they knew would never be punished or made accountable otherwise). that was almost 50 years ago, and still the police continues to murder black people, even children, without facing real consequences from the legal/political system. so what’s happening? what is it that makes us strangers to the past? because we could talk about this in other contexts too - why do we idolize images/representations of violent action taken against white supremacists by past generations of people oppressed like we are but then reject the idea of applying self-defense (broadly defined) to our situation? when we see people of color today taking action in those ways or trying to create space for those actions to be taken it’s considered something to be despised. i don’t know what it is.
sometimes i’m like ‘should i really be going to grad school? am i really good enough to do this? will it do me any good? should i just go straight to a job??’ but then i think about the courses i’m gonna have to take and the research i’m gonna have to do and get so excited
Things I have looked up in the past two days for fic-writing purposes:
a map of all the campsites and hiking trails at Yosemite (now I really want to go; it’s one of the only major national parks I haven’t been to)
a photocopy of the newspaper article about my dad making Eagle Scout to figure out how old he was (14, btw; Wikipedia just said the requirement was “before 18”)
the best coffee pot for use when camping
At least my fictional characters can go live the life I want…
ps - Both my dad and the dude who has been my friend since 6th grade found being asked the age at which they attained Eagle Scout really odd. The hazards of knowing a writer. (You’d think they’d be used to me by now.)
Okay….question from a fearful undergrad @ my grad school (& grad school alumn) buddies and followers:
If you have just found the perfect English PhD program that aligns exactly with what you want to study (which is a very specific thing) and fully funds + stipends for 7 years….but there’s only 12 total PhD slots available every year…what does one do?
Is it too much of a long shot, even with a fairly good resume, to hope for a position? I don’t want to hype myself up about a program I could literally never get into.
Matt, if you want to come hang out in the lab, you’re more then welcome to! I just unboxed some new supplies so I’ve got plenty of boxes for you to play in and I’ll put alway the stuff you can’t mess with. I’ll even turn on Star Wars for you.
“Gǣstan” is an Old English root word of Germanic origin that forms the root of “aghast” and “ghost.” As time progressed, the root became associated with ghosts and specters as it means “terrify” or “frighten.”
Welp looks like this nice little project finally has a name besides “the horror story ask-blog”.
In a situation where the ruling minority asserts, falsely, that it represents the desires of the majority, what can politicians and citizens do to ensure that the true majority sentiment is represented?
Most critically, the majority position must consistently broadcast that theirs is the more popular view. The key factor driving unpopular norms is the misperception of public opinion. Wherever possible, reliable data on the true majority sentiment should be brought to the table and emphasized relentlessly.
Journalists have a role to play in making sure that false impressions of the public’s political views do not take root. Since the election, a view has emerged of Donald Trump as a clever and evasive politician who is able to upend existing policies and standards of decorum without consequence. But this narrative is false. Trump has taken a significant hit in the polls for pursuing an unpopular agenda.