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Friday, July 10, 1998 Published at 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK


UK

Moves for guidelines on Holocaust art

The Tate Gallery: British museums and galleries could receive new guidelines on looted art

Britain's national museums and galleries are considering establishing guidelines for assessing whether art bought for them after World War II had been stolen from Holocaust victims.

The move comes as part of a growing international focus on looted art.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith is looking in to the possibility of introducing guidelines to assess the background of works of art in the nation's collection.


[ image: No British galleries are aware of pieces bought from looted collections]
No British galleries are aware of pieces bought from looted collections
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that the issue was being looked into.

The spokesman told BBC News 24: "It is not something we would be opposed to and we are looking into it."

He said the method of assessing the origins of works of art was not a straightforward issue.

Works of art sold after World War II may have belonged to Holocaust victims but there there are also records of art being sold legitimately by Jewish families, such as refugees, before the war.

The Nazi party also owned its own works of art which further complicated the issue, the spokesman said.

The move follows a letter to the Secretary of State from Dr Alan Borg, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and chairman of the Conference of Directors of National Museums and Galleries.

In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle newspaper Dr Borg said it was time Britain followed initiatives abroad in dealing with looted art.

He told the newspaper: "Although I can speak only on behalf of the national museums, we have made contact with the non-national museums through the Museums and Galleries Commission and the Museums Association.

"We are drawing up a series of principles and surveying the collections that we hold."


[ image: The Victoria and Albert Museum: director Dr Alan Borg raised the issue]
The Victoria and Albert Museum: director Dr Alan Borg raised the issue
Dr Borg said there were no British art galleries which were currently aware of any items in their collections which had been looted although that did not mean that none existed.

The move to investigate the history of Britain's national art collection follows international measures to deal with looting carried out by the Nazis during World War II.

American museums have already established a clear set of directives for dealing with potentially looted work.

The three biggest commercial banks in Switzerland have offered to pay a maximum of $600m in a global settlement of the claims by victims of the Nazi Holocaust during the Second World War.





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