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Web Site Can’t Finding Art Owners

July 14, 2000

BOSTON (AP) _ The Museum of Fine Arts had hoped the Internet might aid its effort to return seven paintings that may have been looted by the Nazis during the Holocaust to their rightful owners.

So far, the idea hasn’t worked.

Though the Boston museum’s Web site has logged more than 20,000 hits since pictures of the paintings were posted April 10, no one has helped the museum trace their history, or provenance.

``There are a lot of people visiting the site, which is great, but much of the things people were e-mailing us about were paintings we don’t have,″ said Kelly Gifford, a museum spokeswoman.

The museum is among several across the country _ including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and The Art Institute of Chicago _ that have posted hundreds of paintings with incomplete histories on their Web sites. None have reported any success in filling in the blanks.

Approximately 600,000 works of art may have been stolen from the Jews by the Nazis, according to experts from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. The World Jewish Congress has estimated that 200 of the nation’s 750 art museums may hold ``suspicious″ art.

Alan Ronkin, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston, said he did not think four months was enough time to judge the Internet’s effectiveness for the museums.

``Some of these issues have been unresolved since the ’40s,″ Ronkin said.

The Museum of Fine Arts has decided to abandon using the Internet in its investigation of the seven paintings, Gifford said, but it still plans to eventually post all 15,000 items from its European collection on the Web site.

``It’s not going to be what we originally thought, but it is a great educational tool,″ Gifford said.

Anna Kisluck, director of the New York-based Art Loss Register, said posting paintings on museum Web sites is still a worthwhile pursuit.

``Museums want to get information to fill these gaps, and the Internet is one way of doing it,″ she said. ``They’re not just pinning their hopes on this, and saying, ‘We’ll plaster it up here on our site and hope that someone tells us something.’ They’re doing their own research. But this is just something extra _ a good-faith effort on their part.″


On the Web:

Boston museum: http://www.mfa.org

Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org

J. Paul Getty Museum: http://www.getty.edu

The Art Institute of Chicago: http://www.artic.edu

Art Loss Register: http://www.artloss.com

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