Exhibition Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Work at Art Museums

Chasing History: Art and Provenance

August 9–November 26 , 2006

Stanford, California — The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents “Chasing History: Art and Provenance” from August 9 to November 26, 2006. The exhibition includes eight paintings with recent discoveries about each work's provenance, its history of ownership. A corresponding panel discussion, "The Ethics of Collecting," addresses issues of professional practices and ethical considerations regarding the acquisition and trade of art and artifacts, Thursday, November 16, 6:30 pm, free, in the Cantor Arts Center auditorium.

Cantor Arts Center staff has undertaken an extensive review of its European art collection, focusing specifically on the history of ownership of works in the collection. This exhibition, organized by Judy Dennis, curatorial assistant, and Bernard Barryte, chief curator, highlights the research methods used to investigate the paintings, including Carlo Dolci's Madonna in Glory and Sir Joshua Reynolds's Portrait of Elizabeth Turner, and reveals the results.

The purpose of the research is three-fold. First, to investigate, gather, and update provenance information for Cantor Arts Center staff's knowledge and records. Second, provenance research contributes to understanding of the history of taste by enabling scholars to trace more thoroughly the collectors who previously possessed an object. Third, these efforts comply with the American Association of Museum's directive that “museums should make serious efforts to allocate time and funding to…conduct research on objects…whose provenance is incomplete or uncertain.”

The exhibition focuses on the information gleaned from various sources and also describes some of the techniques and steps employed in provenance research, a process that may involve uncovering correspondence and invoices, consulting with auction houses, reviewing catalogues, interviewing dealers, scholars, and colleagues at other museums, physical examination of the object and frame, reviewing conservation and condition reports, and conducting library and archival research. All these contribute to more complete records of each object's history once it has left the artist's studio.

The exhibition, presented in the Cantor Arts Center's Lynn Krywick Gibbons Gallery, complements the Center's “Conflict in Art” exhibition by addressing the conflicts potentially roused by questions of ownership, for example, and ethical considerations regarding the acquisition and trade of art and artifacts.

“Chasing History” is made possible by the Lynn Krywick Gibbons Gallery Exhibitions Fund and the Robert Mondavi Fund.