Call for Papers: Collecting and Provenance: Usage, Authenticity and Ownership (Deadline for proposals: 29 February 2016)

Collecting & Display Conference, 13 – 16 November 2016 at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Collecting & Display in collaboration with The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and The History of Art Department, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

13 – 16 November 2016 at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem



Provenance research forms an important part of the regular aspects of museum curators’ work. In the context of documenting their collections, museums need to confirm the status of every object as an original artwork as well as validating the artist’s identity – information that typically relies on provenance research. Moreover, when lending a work of art, museums must know the details of its history in order to avoid claims of ownership while the work of art is exhibited outside their precincts.

In theory-based contemporary art-historical research, however, provenance seems to have lost its importance and standing. Despite the prominence of this subject in twentieth-century catalogues, books and exhibitions, today’s students are often unaware of its significance. They no longer attempt to establish attributions for art objects that are still to be categorised. Therefore, this meticulous gathering of information has largely turned into a lost art.

The main objective of this conference is to highlight the enduring significance of provenance and its implications for historians and art historians, as well as for students and researchers engaged in museum studies. It also offers an opportunity to demonstrate its relevance to other fields of expertise, such as conservation, visual culture studies, aesthetics, authentication, and connoisseurship versus technology as a means of establishing attributions and detecting forgeries. Provenance is still vitally important to jurisdiction concerning property law and ownership and it remains topical because of the on-going debate over looted art in the 1930s and 1940s and over the illicit trade in antiquities conducted from Iraq and Syria by terrorist groups.

The conference will take place at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Founded in 1965, the Museum holds encyclopaedic collections based on those of its predecessor, the Bezalel National Museum; it hosts works of art brought into the country by refugees and immigrants from Europe in the early twentieth century. It is, therefore, the ideal venue to explore the many aspects of provenance research – historical and contemporary – and to highlight its vital importance to collections and collectors today.

We welcome proposals on any aspect of the conference theme, particularly (but not limited to) the following:

  • Collections and sources
  • The art trade: dealers and commercial galleries
  • The Art Loss Register and similar institutions
  • Looted art and its restitution
  • Theft on demand
  • Donations
  • Methods of provenance research (historical, visual, photographical evidence)
  • Forgery
  • Conservation
  • Connoisseurship versus technology
  • Authenticity and aesthetics
  • Law and ownership

The organisers of this conference invite proposals from scholars of the history of collecting as well as museum staff (curators, art historians, librarians, administrators, scientists). Please send proposals of approximately 250 words and a one-paragraph bio blurb in English to Dr Andrea Gáldy , Dr Gal Ventura and Ronit Sorek by 29 February 2016.

Tags: collections, museums, curators, art trade, Art Loss Register, looted art, theft, donations, sources, provenance

Preliminary conference outline (subject to change):

Sunday 13/11/16 – registration of speakers and delegates, exhibition tours and evening reception, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, keynote speech

Monday 14/11/16 – academic sessions, conference dinner

Tuesday 15/11/16 academic sessions

Wednesday 16/11/16 – morning: visits: guided tours in the Old City of Jerusalem, afternoon: academic sessions


7. Januar 2016

The Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Seminar on Collecting and Display