Ebbinghaus and the Art Loss Register

On 19 April 2022, Ms Amelie Ebbinghaus, Client Manager & Provenance Researcher at the Art Loss Register in London, gave a one-hour Zoom lecture (available here) on the topic of “Due Diligence and Restitution in the Art Market”. She had accepted the invitation of the Art Law Clinic based at the ITM and led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Hoeren.

Ms Ebbinghaus introduced the Art Loss Register (ALR) in London. The private company was founded in 1991 and is the world’s largest database of lost and stolen works of art with approximately 700,000 registrations. The aim of the ALR is to protect the art market from problematic goods, to recover registered objects and to prevent theft and insurance fraud. The work of the ALR is explained in the course of the lecture through three different levels: registration, search and recovery.

At the registration level, losses are mainly recorded by victims of theft, insurance companies and law enforcement agencies, and all art collectors’ items can be registered, Ebbinghaus said.

This is followed by research, in which the ALR matches the object it has registered with the database for auction houses, museums and dealers, among others, and determines the background of loss circumstances and the work’s identity. In total, the research involves about 400,000 queries annually, as Ms Ebbinghaus informed the interested audience.

Ms Ebbinghaus then explained the procedures in case there is a match between the registered object and the database. The repatriation was explained on the one hand using the example of Nazi looted art and on the other hand using the example of a theft. The so-called Washington Principles of 1998, which provide for a “just and fair solution”, have a significant influence on the repatriation of Nazi looted art.

The lecture was rounded off with an exciting discussion and Q&A session. We would like to sincerely thank Ms Eb