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October 22, 2021

Henri Matisse, “Girl in Yellow and Blue with Guitar,” 1939, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago.

This August, the Jewish Museum opened Afterlives: Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art, an exhibition that explores the countless art objects that were stolen by Nazi forces during World War II. 75 years later, Afterlives chronicles these objects’ stories - the circumstances of their theft, their post-war rescue, and their continuing lives in museums and private collections. It explores how these objects were changed by those events and how they continue to bear witness to historical moments, while still acting as unchanging monuments to individual expression, knowledge, and creativity. It also traces the long and complicated journeys these objects took across borders, through distribution centers, and in and out of the hands of collectors, looters, and restitution organizations.

Marc Chagall, “Purim,” c. 1916-17, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The exhibition features more than 50 objects looted from Jewish collections during the war, including works by renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. It also includes rarely seen archival photographs and documents that chronicle these objects’ journeys, and over 80 Jewish ceremonial objects from destroyed synagogues, some pulled from the museum’s own collection. The museum also commissioned four contemporary artists to create new works that address the theme of the exhibition.

Maria Eichhorn, “Hannah Arendt: Jewish Cultural Reconstruction Field Reports, Memoranda, Etc.” (detail), 2021, books and periodicals redistributed by Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, © Maria Eichhorn, photo by Steven Paneccasio.

Afterlives will be on view at the Jewish Museum until January 9, 2022. For more information about the exhibition, please visit