THEFT AT THE MUSEUM FOR EAST ASIAN ART COLOGNE
ON SEPTEMBER 13, 2023
On the night between September 12 and 13, 2023, unknown persons broke into the Museum for East Asian Art Cologne (MOK) and stole nine Chinese porcelain objects. Security personnel on site remained uninjured and immediately notified the police. The museum director and further museum staff were able to examine the damage in situ on the same night. All of the stolen pieces (listed in a PDF linked below), dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, were produced in imperial context.
The staff members of the Museum for East Asian Art are shocked and deeply consternated by the burglary. More than a financial and material damage, the museum mourns a loss of intangible nature: the large majority of the stolen objects belonged to MOK’s initial collection holdings, which the museum founders Adolf and Frieda Fischer acquired for the institution in China between 1906 and 1911, documenting the acquisitions in detail in their purchase diary. Among the stolen objects, further, was a Ming-dynasty yellow-glazed dish, which only recently entered the museum collection as a gift donated by the Circle of Friends of the Museum for East Asian Art in 2015. The imperial porcelains, which saw a technical and stylistic heyday during the corresponding eras of their manufacture, were generally produced in series; today, individual pieces are often only rarely seen. The nine pieces stolen from the MOK possess an iconic quality, each one in its own way; their unique collection history is fundamentally coalesced with the museum’s identity. Art- and culture-historically, they are of inestimable value.
The crime incident is preceded this year by a burglary with failed attempt at theft in January, and an attempted burglary in June. Following the January event, security precautions at the MOK were massively heightened: architectonically, with regard to security systems, and in terms of security personnel. The break-in on September 13 was carried out with great effort and violence. The thereupon implemented security measures were decided in close consultation with the museum’s security advisor, local criminal police, and Department for Art and Culture of the City of Cologne. While the investigation is underway, the museum is collaborating with the authorities involved to assess how security measures at the MOK can be further expanded.
The German Federal Criminal Police Office is involved in the current investigation; its case has been registered at Interpol. The international dimension of the investigation corresponds to the cultural significance and financial value of the stolen property. The objects are very well documented and therefore clearly identifiable, and so it is hoped that they will eventually find their way back into the museum collection. The Museum for East Asian Art Cologne, which sees itself under new directorship as of July 2023, seeks to make meaningful and sustainable use of the unfortunate incident, for itself and for the museum world. Addressing the art theft publicly, whether in the form of a designated separate space on the museum website or a specially dedicated area in the exhibition halls, plays an important role in initially dealing with the loss, in order to draw attention to and raise awareness for the targeted, professionalized criminal activities that have become manifest throughout Europe in recent years through museum burglaries in many places. In the long run, the grave significance of systematic art theft as a currently widespread phenomenon must be made more visible: the current burglary at the Museum for East Asian Art serves as a wake-up call, not only in Cologne, but also countrywide and worldwide.
For strategical reasons concerning the investigation, further information on the burglary cannot be published at this time.
For insurance-related reasons, further information on the value of the stolen collection items cannot be provided at this time.
Museum for East Asian Art Cologne
September 22, 2023
Exhibition | Current
4 May 2023 until 05 November 2023
From the estate of Bitburg engineer Heinrich Hildebrand (1855-1925), the Museum is presenting exceptional works created by Chinese silversmiths during the late Qing Dynasty (from 1644 to 1911). Between 1891 and 1908, Hildebrand constructed railway lines, factories and buildings all over China. He acquired scores of artworks for his residence in Tsingtao (today known as Qingdao), capital of the territory Kiaochow, which was leased by Imperial China to the German Empire. Most of his silverware was produced in the hinterland of Tsingtao around 1900. more
Exhibition | Current
12 May - 05 November 2023
Historical photographs of Japan’s sights from the Meiji period (1868–1912) inspire the photographer Naoya Hatakeyama to visit those places and examine them anew. In a playful juxtaposition of photographic archive material and his own shots of those sites, he traces the temporal aspect that is located between the tourist views of the past and the landscape of today. more
Exhibition | Current
From 20 June 2023
Mysterious, magical, spiritual - sculptures, murals, woodblock prints, books, screens visualize the complex world of gods, spirits and demons. Two absolute highlights: Raijin, the thunder god, or Karura, a bird-like creature from Hindu mythology. For the new installation of the permanent collection "JAPAN" outstanding objects have been impressively staged. more
Exhibition | Current
Since the beginning of Chinese porcelain production in Jingdezhen in the 14th century, shapes and decorations have been produced to the taste of overseas buyers. Using objects from its own collection, the exhibition shows which types of Chinese porcelain came to Europe, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Japan Gallery presents not only the classic export porcelain from Arita but also the modernised production of the Meiji period (1868-1918) from Kutani, Kyoto, Satsuma and Seto. more
The Museum for East Asian Art was opened in 1913 as the first specialist museum of its kind in Europe. It now houses one of the most distinguished collections of art from China, Korea and Japan in Germany.more
The museum is closed due to the Cologne Marathon on 1 October 2023.
Tuesday to Sunday
11am – 5pm
Every first Thursday in the month
11am – 10pm
Closed Mondays; open on All Saints' Day
Museum is closed on December 24th, Christmas Day (25 Dec), New Year's Eve (31 Dec) and New Year's Day (1 Jan). Museum is opend on Easter Monday, Whit Monday, German Unity Day and December 26.
€ 9,50 /reduced € 5,50
KölnTag on the first Thursday of the month (except public holidays): free admission to the Museum for all Cologne residents.
How to get here
Public transport: Tram routes 1 and 7 and bus route 142, alight at ‘Universitätsstrasse’
There is a car park at the museum
The museum is barrier-free. Disabled toilet available.