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Students and scholars gathered Monday to hear Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, a senior research associate at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute, discuss her research on art stolen by the Nazis and her attempts to track down works that remain unidentified.
Grimsted spoke about a collection of paintings that Erich Koch, a Nazi party leader, looted during World War II. Her research on the collection found that the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, has stored about 30 of these paintings, although she said the museum denied her access to the paintings. Grimsted said Hermitage administrators told her that they are currently restoring the paintings off-site.
“My aim right now is to try to find a way to get to see these paintings in the Hermitage,” Grimsted said in an interview. “If they’ve left them in the basement for 65 years, I don’t know what sort of condition they’re in.”
During the seminar in CGIS South, Grimsted spoke for nearly an hour about her research with looted and unidentified artwork. After Grimsted’s talk, she took questions from the audience and discussed her future research plans.
History professor Serhii Plokhii, director of the Ukrainian Research Institute, attended Grimsted’s seminar and lauded her research abilities.
“She is the woman who walks through the walls when it comes to all these bureaucratic and legal obstacles,” Plokhii said.
Kristina Conroy, communications director at the Ukrainian Research Institute, also praised Grimsted’s research accomplishments.
“Patricia Grimsted is very well respected,” Conroy said. “She’s gotten access to archives when very few people have been able to.”
Grimsted said she became interested in displaced art when the Soviet Union was breaking up, as she was living in Moscow at the time. The Koch collection project is just one of many on which she is working, she said.
Grimsted hopes to write a book on her findings, although she said she cannot publish her work until she identifies the paintings in the Hermitage.
In addition to writing about the the looted Koch collection, Grimsted will highlight the importance of uncovering displaced art in her book.
“One of the things I’m arguing is the need to identify more [paintings],” she said. “I’m only identifying 30.”
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