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Boxerloot Conference on 22 and 23 February 2024 in Munich

11.01.2024
Zentralarchiv

From 22 to 23 February 2024, the joint research project “Traces of the ‘Boxer War’ in German Museum Collections – A Joint Approach” will hold the first international conference on objects in museum collections suspected to have been looted in China in the context of the so-called “Boxer War.” The conference titled ‘Boxerloot! Museum collections, the ‘Boxer war’ and practices of plunder’ will take place at the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich.

Many museums and private collections around the world contain objects that a variety of actors looted in China in the context of the so-called boxer war between 1900 and 1901. A military coalition known as the eight-nation-alliance invaded China in order to suppress the anti-imperialist Yihetuan movement. Subsequently, extensive looting took place in imperial palaces, temples, shops, and private homes in Beijing and Northern China.

A flourishing trade of looted objects in the streets of Beijing in 1900, which included daily auctions of looted objects, involved not only foreign soldiers, but also diplomats, missionaries, businesspeople, museum staff as well as members of the local population. They shipped vast quantities of imperial porcelain, religious artefacts, paintings, weapons, books, and everyday items around the world.

Many of these objects were gifted or sold to museums, some in the years following the Yihetuan movement by actors who had been in Beijing themselves, others later via more complicated trajectories. Some of these looted objects circulated in the international art market for decades. In many cases, the problematic provenance of these types of objects remained unknown, as the topic has only recently come into focus in the wake of broader debates concerning museum objects stemming from colonial contexts. Tracing the pathways of these objects can be a difficult task, especially as systematic research on looting practices during the “boxer war” and on the circulation of objects looted from China is also still in its early stages.

Boxerloot Conference on 22 and 23 February 2024 in Munich

The conference “‘Boxerloot! Museum collections, the ‘Boxer war’ and practices of plunder” aims to open an international dialogue on the past and future of these objects. As we understand provenance research as going beyond research on individual objects, we will focus especially on the broader context of looting in China in 1900 and 1901, the continued circulation of these looted objects in the following decades, as well as questions of current museum practice such as identifying or exhibiting potentially looted objects.

Download:program of the conference (PDF, 179 KB)

The conference language is English.

Registration is open until 18 February 2024. Please send us an email, providing your full name and, if applicable, your institution: boxerprojekt[at]smb.spk-berlin.de.

Live Stream

If you are unable to attend in person in Munich, the event will also be broadcast as a live stream on the YouTube channel of the Museum Fünf Kontinente:

Guidelines for Museums

The discussions at the conference will also contribute to guidelines being prepared by the project team on how to deal with objects in museum collections suspected of being ”boxer loot”.

Collaborative Project “Traces of the ‘Boxer Rebellion’ in German Museum Collections – A Joint Approach”

The conference is being organised as part of the project “Traces of the ‘Boxer War’ in German Museum Collections – A Joint Approach” in which seven German museums are cooperating with the Palace Museum Beijing in order to research their collections for potentially looted objects from the “Boxer War”. The project is funded by the German Lost Art Foundation and headed by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Zentralarchiv.

It is carried out in collaboration by the following seven museums: Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich, which is hosting the conference, Museum für Asiatische Kunst and Ethnologisches Museum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Museum am Rothenbaum: Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK) and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg (MK&G), GRASSI Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Leipzig, and Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt am Main.