Provenance in Progress: Analyzing Off the Map

The Provenance of a Painting at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

  • Molly Boarati (Autor/in)

Identifier (Artikel)


This article introduces readers to a Nazi-era provenance exhibition that took place at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in the fall of 2021: Off the Map: The Provenance of a Painting. Featuring a recently attributed portrait by Joseph Wright of Derby, the exhibition presented research on its history of ownership through a variety of methodologies, including archival findings and conservation. The painting and its known provenance are discussed here, as well as how the exhibition became an opportunity to hold constructive conversations related to the many socio-political events that have shaped our world, and art museums, over the past few years. Conceived of prior to the pandemic and the powerful movements for justice that occurred during this time, the exhibition content did not directly address the current cultural cli-mate. This paper critically analyzes Off the Map and considers ways that curators of provenance may wish to conceptualize future installations that cover not only object biographies, but also interrelated topics such as racism, colonial-era legacies, and whiteness. In acknowledging the role of Nazi-era provenance exhibitions in today’s conversations around social justice, museums can engage wider audiences and tell richer stories that offer transparency on how racism has affected a work’s provenance over time.

Keywords: Provenance; exhibition; Nazi-era; Joseph Wright of Derby; anti-racism


Provenance, exhibition, Nazi-era, Joseph Wright of Derby, anti-racism