Skip to main content

Things We Saw Today: New York Law Now Requires Museums to Identify What Art Was Stolen by Nazis

Nobelse via the Wikicommons. SOURCE:,_Duitsland.%2824_april_1945%29_Foto-_U.S._National_Archives.jpg

To address the continued erasure of Jewish history and a legacy of antisemitism, Governor Kathy Hochul signed three laws earlier this month (after being passed by the New York Legislature). These include a list of banks that waive reparation payments, updates as to how the Holocaust is taught in schools (first update since 1994), and the requirement that all museums prominently show which art came from Nazi looting. Their definition of looting includes a forced sale, seizure, or anything involuntary.

Hyperallergic noted that Nazi-looted artwork has been returned rarely and irregularly over the last few years. The (always wrong) reasoning for Nazi theft varied. But genocide includes cultural erasure, alongside death, and stealing art was, ultimately, a form of that erasure. Similarly to non-visual work, much of the artwork was stolen to be resold, burned, or displayed as art that was propagandized (as in opposition to “real” German culture). The 1937 Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art Exhibition) was shut down after a few weeks because it was very popular, with over a million people visiting in the first six weeks. What looted artwork wasn’t sold was burned after.

So, what does this new law mean? Well, not only is this law important in regards to better transparency with the public on these works (and the sordid history that got them here), but it also will make it a bit easier for survivors and their families to work out a repatriation process. Additionally, the new law shines a light on museums’ complicity in keeping objects taken from genocides (including of Native American nations) and chattel slavery—and with that knowledge, comes renewed interest in the form of movies or large social movements. These kinds of acknowledgments have the potential to keep these conversations ever-present.

(via Hyperallergic, featured image: Nobelse via the Wikicommons.)

Here are some other bits of news out there:

  • Lena Wilson doubles down on efforts to stereotype Amandla Stenberg. (via Out)
  • Cathy Yan to direct an adaption of Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui. (via Deadline.)
  • Warner Bros. Discovery (led by David Zaslav) continues the trend of cutting women and people of color out of leadership positions. (via Variety)
  • Rumors swirl that Sam Heughan might join a Days Gone movie adaptation. (via Deadline.)

What did you see out there today?

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

(she/her) Award-winning artist and blogger with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. Starting as an Online Editor for her college paper in October 2017, Alyssa began writing for the first time within two months of working in the newsroom. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3, Apex Legends, and CS:GO. Still trying to beat Saxon Farm on RCT 3 (so I can 100% the game.)