Bénédicte Savoy

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Bénédicte Savoy
Bénédicte Savoy in 2018
Born (1972-05-22) 22 May 1972 (age 52)
Paris, France
Alma mater
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsArt history

Bénédicte Savoy (French: Bénédicte Savoy [benedikt savwa]; born 22 May 1972) is a French art historian, specialising in the critical enquiry of the provenance of works of art, including looted art and other forms of illegally acquired cultural objects.

Savoy is professor of modern art history at the Technical University of Berlin, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, she was professor for cultural history of European Artistic Heritage from the 18th to 20th centuries at the Collège de France in Paris. Commissioned by the French president in 2018, she and economist and writer Felwine Sarr from Senegal are the authors of a report on the restitution of African cultural heritage.

Biography and career[edit]

As a high school student, Savoy attended the Beethoven-Gymnasium in West Berlin in 1988/89. She then studied German language and civilisation at the École Normale Supérieure in Fontenay, France, which she completed in 1994 with a master's thesis on the visual artist Anselm Kiefer. In 1996, she received the agrégation (license to teach in French high schools).

From 1998 to 2001, she was research assistant at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin and lecturer both at the Technical University and the Free University in Berlin. In 2000, she received her doctorate from the University of Paris VIII with a dissertation on French art theft in Germany. From 2003 to 2009, Savoy was a junior professor at the Institute for History and Art History at Technical University of Berlin. Since 2009, she has been professor of modern art history at the same university.[1]

Savoy is a member of the Board of Trustees of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.[2] After a series of lectures as a guest lecturer in June 2015, Savoy was appointed professor at the Collège de France in 2016: She held the chair of Histoire culturelle du patrimoine artistique en Europe, XVIIIe-XXe siècles until 2021.

Expert on the ethics of cultural collections[edit]

Savoy is internationally known as an expert on the ethics of ownership of cultural collections and research on the provenance of cultural heritage in the context of "translocations" of artworks.[3] Since her 2003 study of the cultural heritage looted in Germany by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars (French title: Patrimoine annexé. Les biens culturels saisis par la France en Allemagne autour de 1800),[4] she has published several books, academic papers and articles on the illicit transfer of cultural goods.[5]

Commissioned by French president Emmanuel Macron in 2018, Savoy and Senegalese academic Felwine Sarr investigated the possibility of returning cultural items from French state-owned museums to African countries. This resulted in their report on the restitution of African cultural heritage in November 2018, which presents a detailed analysis of the African cultural heritage in France as well as recommendations and an outline for possible restitutions.[6][7]

In her book Africa's Struggle for Its Art: History of a Post-Colonial Defeat, first published in German in 2021, Savoy documented the numerous endeavours by African nations to recover cultural objects acquired under colonial circumstances during the 1970s and the 1980s. Following her and Felwine Sarr's 2018 report on the restitution of African cultural heritage, she shows "how extensively these stories have been silenced and suppressed by European cultural leaders."[8] In Acquiring Cultures: Histories of World Art on Western Markets, Savoy and her co-authors published various studies on the "history of seizure, trade and collecting of non-Western heritage from Asia, the Pacific, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Australia and the Americas, and the foundation of public or private collections in Europe and the United States" since the mid-18th-century.[9]

As member of the academic community of art historians in Berlin, she has been involved in the debates on the restitution of African cultural heritage in German collections and actively participates in research and public discussions about this issue. Until 2017, she was member of the advisory board of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, but resigned from this committee, because of her negative assessment of the future museum's handling of art objects that originate from Germany's former colonial territories.[10][11]

In 2020, Savoy and other art historians at the Technical University of Berlin and the University of Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum were appointed to carry out a joint research project called Restitution of Knowledge to study, how art and cultural assets from other countries were collected in major museums of Europe.[12]

Since 2019, Savoy has also been a member of the newly established board of the Junge Akademie, an interdisciplinary research organisation, which is jointly supported by the two oldest academies for sciences in Germany, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. She became member of the latter in 2016.[13]

In May 2023, Savoy presented a study, titled Atlas der Abwesenheit, which found that German museums hold 40,000 artifacts from Cameroon —more than any other museum collection worldwide.[14][15]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2020, their report about the restitution of African cultural heritage and its public response earned Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr the third place in the annual ranking of the "Most influential People in the international Art World", established by ArtReview magazine,[31] and Time magazine listed them among the "100 Most Influential People of 2021".[32]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Meyer, Andrea; Bénédicte Savoy (2014). The Museum is Open: Towards a Transnational History of Museums 1750-1940. Berlin: De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-029882-6. OCLC 874163864.
  • Sarr, Felwine; Savoy, Bénédicte (21 November 2018). Rapport sur la restitution du patrimoine culturel africain. Vers une nouvelle éthique relationnelle [The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics] (pdf) (Report) (in French and English). Paris. p. 240. ISBN 978-2-84876-725-3.
  • Savoy, Bénédicte; Charlotte Guichard; Christine Howald (2018). Acquiring Cultures: Histories of World Art On Western Markets. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-054508-1. OCLC 1039210631.
  • Savoy, Bénédicte; Bodenstein, Felicity; Lagatz, Merten (2020). Translocations Histories of Dislocated Cultural Assets. Transcript. ISBN 978-3-8376-5336-6. OCLC 1153525839.
  • Savoy, Bénédicte (2022). Africa's Struggle for Its Art. History of a Post-Colonial Defeat. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-23473-1.
  • Savoy, Bénédicte (2023). Le Long Combat de l'Afrique pour son art. Histoire d'une défaite postcoloniale. Paris: Seuil. ISBN 978-2-02-149712-0.


  1. ^ "Fachgebiet Kunstgeschichte der Moderne: Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy". tu.berlin/kuk. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  2. ^ "Board of Trustees | Kulturstiftung des Bundes". www.kulturstiftung-des-bundes.de. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  3. ^ She and co-author Felwine Sarr of the 2018 report were called "Most influential people in 2020 in the contemporary artworld" by ArtReview magazine."Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy". artreview.com. 2000. Archived from the original on 6 December 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  4. ^ Savoy, Bénédicte (2003). Patrimoine annexé. Les biens culturels saisis par la France en Allemagne autour de 1800 (in French). Paris: Éditions de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. OCLC 819123037.
  5. ^ "# 60 | Pillages and Restitutions | Bénédicte Savoy". Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  6. ^ Felwine Sarr, Bénédicte Savoy: Rapport sur la restitution du patrimoine culturel africain. Vers une nouvelle éthique relationnelle. The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage. Toward a New Relational Ethics, Paris 2018 (Download French original and English version, pdf, http://restitutionreport2018.com)
  7. ^ Horton, Mark (22 January 2019). "Returning looted artifacts will finally restore heritage to the brilliant cultures that made them". CNN. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  8. ^ Savoy, Bénédicte (2022). "Africa's Struggle for Its Art: History of a Post-Colonial Defeat". press.princeton.edu. Princeton University Press. Archived from the original on 28 May 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2021.
  9. ^ Vassilika, Eleni (25 August 2020). "SHC Review: Charlotte Guichard, Bénédicte Savoy, Acquiring Cultures: Histories of World Art on Western Markets (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019)". SocHistColl. The Society for the History of Collecting. Archived from the original on 28 November 2020. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  10. ^ "We are part of the solution, not the problem. – Humboldt Forum". 26 July 2019. Archived from the original on 26 July 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  11. ^ "Black Lives Matter movement is speeding up repatriation efforts, leading French art historian says". www.theartnewspaper.com. 21 October 2020. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  12. ^ "Restitution of Knowledge". www.tu.berlin. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  13. ^ "Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften wählt fünf neue Mitglieder". idw-online.de. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  14. ^ Tessa Solomon (5 June 2023). "German Museums Hold 40,000 Artifacts Looted from Cameroon, New Study Finds". ARTNews.
  15. ^ Bénédicte Savoy. "Atlas der Abwesenheit" (PDF).
  16. ^ Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. "Preisträger - Walter-de-Gruyter-Preis der Akademie". bbaw.de. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  17. ^ Stabsstelle Kommunikation, Events und Alumni - Technishce Universität Berlin. "Napoleon und Nofretete – deutsch-französische Dialoge der Kunstgeschichte". pressestelle.tu-berlin.de. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  18. ^ Stefanie Terp Stabsstelle Presse, Öffentlichkeitsarbeit und Alumni - Technische Universität Berlin. "TU Berlin: Ordre national du Mérite für Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy". idw-online.de. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  19. ^ Gesellschaft von Freunden der TU Berlin e.V. "Gute Lehre sichtbar machen". tu-berlin.de. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  20. ^ "Fachgebiet Kunstgeschichte der Moderne: Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy". tu.berlin/kuk. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  21. ^ "Fachgebiet Kunstgeschichte der Moderne: Prof. Dr. Bénédicte Savoy". tu.berlin/kuk. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  22. ^ Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz-Preis 2016". dfg.de. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  23. ^ Der Tagesspiegel. "Kythera-Preis für Bénédicte Savoy". Der Tagesspiegel Online. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  24. ^ Technische Universität Berlin. "Woher kommen die Kunstschätze? – Große Verdienste um den Anstoß der Restitutionsdebatte". tu.berlin. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  25. ^ Schwarz, Axel. "Kasseler Bürgerpreis "Glas der Vernunft" geht an Kunsthistorikerin Bénédicte Savoy". hna.de. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  26. ^ SWR2. "Anselm Kiefer und Bénédicte Savoy mit dem Deutsch-Französischen Medienpreis ausgezeichnet". swr.de. Retrieved 23 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ Bérat, Paul. "Légion d'honneur: la nouvelle promotion du 14 juillet 2022". lejournaldesarts.fr. Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  28. ^ "Bénédicte Savoy erhielt Deutschen Kulturpolitikpreis". kulturrat.de. Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  29. ^ "Berliner Wissenschaftspreis für zwei Forscherinnen der TU Berlin". idw-online.de (in German). Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  30. ^ "Excellent Communication of Arts Research". idw-online.de. Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  31. ^ ArtReview. "Power 100". artreview.com. Archived from the original on 4 December 2020. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  32. ^ Adjaye, David (15 September 2021). "Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy: Time100 2021". Time. Retrieved 19 October 2021.

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