Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

Museum Huelsmann in Bielefeld opens special exhibition on provenance research

Date 2020.05.28

The Mu­se­um Huels­mann in Biele­feld has opened its spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tion “Ver­mächt­nis sucht Herkun­ft. Prove­nien­z­forschung zur Samm­lung Friedrich und Gertrud Huels­mann in Biele­feld” (A be­quest in search of its ori­gins. Prove­nance re­search on the col­lec­tion of Friedrich and Gertrud Huels­mann in Biele­feld). The mu­se­um is show­cas­ing the find­ings of a prove­nance re­search project fund­ed by the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion un­til the end of 2021.

Friedrich Karl Au­gust Huels­mann (1904–1979) and his wife Gertrud Agathe Elis­a­beth Huels­mann (1894–1983) be­gan run­ning the renowned art and an­tique deal­er­ship F.K.A. Huels­mann in Ham­burg in the late 1930s. In the post-war era, the busi­ness be­came a lead­er in the field of Eu­ro­pean hand­crafts. In their wills, the child­less cou­ple be­queathed all of their as­sets—in­clud­ing an ex­ten­sive and high-qual­i­ty hand­craft col­lec­tion—to the city of Biele­feld, Friedrich Huels­mann’s birth­place. With the open­ing of the Mu­se­um Huels­mann, the city put a to­tal of 953 ob­jects and ob­ject groups on dis­play to the pub­lic.
The aim of the re­search project was to clar­i­fy the large­ly un­known ori­gin of the ob­jects be­fore they were ac­quired by the Huels­man­ns, so that any un­law­ful­ly ex­pro­pri­at­ed works could be re­turned to the right­ful own­ers or their heirs.

The ex­hi­bi­tion route com­pris­es 15 dif­fer­ent dis­plays show­cas­ing the his­to­ry of the ob­jects. It leads vis­i­tors through all ar­eas of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and high­lights the un­known fate of im­por­tant art­works be­fore they came to Biele­feld at the be­quest of the Huels­man­ns. The se­lect­ed ex­am­ples name the im­por­tant col­lec­tors, ex­plain var­i­ous forms of ac­qui­si­tion in the art trade and re­fer to the work­ing meth­ods of prove­nance re­searchers.

Af­ter the of­fi­cial open­ing cer­e­mo­ny had to be can­celed due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, the ex­hi­bi­tion fi­nal­ly opened to the pub­lic on May 17.

Project de­scrip­tion (on­ly Ger­man ver­sion)

Prove­nance Re­search at the Huels­mann (on­ly Ger­man ver­sion)