The UK government has announced it will strengthen its commitment to the restitution of Nazi-looted art by indefinitely extending the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act of 2009. On 12 September, international experts will debate how the process can be accelerated at London’s National Gallery, which is hosting the conference 70 Years and Counting: the Final Opportunity? We spoke to Anne Webber, one of the panellists and the co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, about what has been achieved so far and what needs to be done to secure justice for the heirs of works expropriated by the Nazis.
The Art Newspaper: Why is the renewal of the Holocaust Act important?
Anne Webber: Before the act was introduced in 2009, UK national museums were statute-barred from de-accessioning art. The act made it possible for museums to implement restitution rulings from the Spoliation Panel following successful claims.
The act was given a “sunset clause” of ten years in 2009, because it wasn’t clear how long the process would need to continue. It quickly became apparent that the ten-year period wouldn’t be sufficient, because claims are still pending and provenance research is still ongoing and that work will not be completed by 2019. The government now plans to extend the act indefinitely. Read more