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Task and History

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (ZI) is the only independent art-historical research institute in Germany. It is a member of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art (RIHA), together with the German art-historical research institutes in Italy (Bibliotheca Hertziana, MPI für Kunstgeschichte, Rom, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, MPI) and France (Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris).

The ZI cooperates with the International Network for Art History and with the international, interdisciplinary M.A.-programme Art and Visual Culture. Discourses and Methodologies from a Historical Perspective.

As a research institute, the ZI offers a regular programme of lectures and conferences which allow international academic exchange. The ZI edits various publications, for example the Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte (RDK) and the Kunstchronik. It also co-edits the Münchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunst. The outstanding holdings of the library and the photograph study collection of the ZI offer excellent conditions for research.

Until 1979, the ZI had been an independent research institution sustained by the Federal Government and the Länder. Since then, it has been supported by the Free State of Bavaria, subordinated to the State Ministry of Sciences, Research and Art. It is supervised by an international board of trustees.

Founded in November 1946, the ZI began its activities on March 1, 1947. Since then it has been located in the former "administration building" of the National Socialist party at Königsplatz. Here, in June 1945, the US Military Government for Bavaria had installed the "Central Art Collecting Point", an institution responsible for the restitution of art confiscated or acquired under dubious circumstances by the National Socialists. Since academic teamwork between American and German art historians working in this institution developed favourably, Craig Hugh Smyth, the first director of the Central Collecting Point, suggested the forming of an art-historical research institute. This "Central Art Institute" was to support the reconstruction of German Art History in an international framework and to re-establish the international scholarly cooperation which had broken away after 1933. Founding director of the Zentralinstitut was Ludwig Heinrich Heydenreich (1903-1978). In the first years, he was supported by Wolfgang Lotz as executive manager, and by Otto Lehmann-Brockhaus as head of the library. Willibald Sauerländer was director of the ZI from 1970 to 1989. In 1991, he was followed by Wolf Tegethoff, who was executive manager from 1989 to 1991.

According to its statutes, the fields of research of the ZI cover the "History of European Art and its Impacts" from Early Christianity to present times. This broad framework allows for an extensive range of research projects and services for the academic community. The Institute regularly holds academic lectures and symposia. A large number of international art historians, visiting scholars as well as junior scholars profit from the ZI's excellent research conditions. Scholarships are regularly offered by the German Federal States of Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hamburg, Saxony and Lower Saxony and by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York. The association 'Friends of the Zentralinstitut', CONIVNCTA FLORESCIT, offers annual awards for distinguished research in the fields of graphic arts, applied arts and the history of architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The excellent holdings of the library and the open access system allow efficient research. These holdings - featuring about 500,000 volumes and about 1,250 current periodicals - are accessible in the online catalogue www.kubikat.org. Cataloguing and subject indexing will be accomplished by the union of libraries German Art Historical Research Institute in Florence, Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art, Paris, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome, in cooperation with the Bibliotheksverbund Bayern (BVB). The collection profile of the library covers European Art History from early Christianity up to the present, taking into account the non-European spheres of influence. Supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the library of the ZI participates in the system of acquisition priorities of German art libraries, focussing on particular fields - among them France and Eastern Europe -, and the Virtual Library for Art History arthistoricum.net (until December 2011). The Photo Study Collection holds more than 650,000 photographs.

For RIHA (the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art), the ZI has developed the online journal RIHA Journal (www.riha-journal.org). The journal, online since April 2010, features high quality research articles of international art historical interest. The project is funded by the German Ministry for Culture (BKM).

The ZI is partner of the Museumsportal München Museumsportal München

The ZI works according to the Guidelines of Good Scientific Practice.


Literature on the Central Art Collecting Point and on the history of the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

  • Smyth, Craig Hugh: Repatriation of art from the collecting point in Munich after World War II : background and beginnings ; with reference especially to the Netherlands
    Maarssen [u.a.] : Schwartz [u.a.], 1988. - 126 p.
    (Gerson Lecture ; 3)

  • Das Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte / Konzeption und Redaktion: Iris Lauterbach
    München: Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, 1997. - 110 p.
    (Veröffentlichungen des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in München ; 11)
    ISBN 3-00-001375-x

  • Lauterbach, Iris: Die Gründung des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte.
    In: 200 Jahre Kunstgeschichte in München : Positionen Perspektiven Polemik, 1780-1980 / Christian Drude, Hubertus Kohle [Hrsg.]
    München : DKV, 2003, p. 168-181
    (Münchener Universitätsschriften des Instituts für Kunstgeschichte ; 2)

  • Lauterbach, Iris: 'Arche Noah', 'Museum ohne Besucher'? Beutekunst und Restitution im Central Art Collecting Point in München 1945-1949.
    [2004]. - 9 p.
    [PDF online-version]

  • Hoyer, Rüdiger ; Lauterbach, Iris: Grands instituts d'histoire de l'art : le Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte à Munich
    In: Nouvelles de l'INHA,  2004, 17 (avril 2004), p. 11-13
    [PDF online-version]

  • Lauterbach, Iris: 'Arche Noah', 'Museum ohne Besucher'? Der Central Art Collecting Point in München In: Entehrt, ausgeplündert, arisiert : Entrechtung und Enteignung der Juden / hrsg. von der Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste Magdeburg. Bearb. von Andrea Baresel-Brand Magdeburg, 2005, S. 335-352



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Last update: 20.12.2011