German culture minister Monika
Grütters has announced that the German Lost Art Foundation will oversee
research into the provenance of colonial era artefacts that might be in the
collections of German museums. In the past, this same group has also overseen
research into the return of art and objects looted by the Nazis, as well as
objects illegally confiscated by the Stasi, or East German secret police, which
operated between 1950 and 1990.
The announcement signals that
Germany shares the perspective of French President Emmanuel Macron, who has
also announced an initiative to return stolen colonial era artefacts to their
nations of origin. Not necessarily excited about joining the movement is
Britain, whose Victoria and Albert Museum is currently resisting the return of
looted artefacts to Ethiopia.
Hopefully, Germany and France will
stand as an example for other nations to follow. It would be lovely to see not
only the return of stolen colonial era artefacts, but also the return of all
other artistic and cultural spoils of war. Perhaps the United States could even
get on board with this idea, and begin a comprehensive investigation looking
into what improperly taken Native American artefacts might be lurking in the
dusty storerooms of its many hundreds of museums.
Image: Commemorative head of a king Uhunmwun Elao, Kingship Benin, Nigeria 16th century, Bronze (Yellow Cast), 26,8 x ⌀ 19,3 cm, © Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg