Works Progress Administration (WPA) Art Recovery Project
GSA is the official custodian on behalf of the federal government for artwork produced under the aegis of several public programs during the “New Deal” of the 1930’s and 1940’s, notably the Works Progress Administration (WPA). GSA OIG has been partnering with GSA’s Fine Arts Program to recover misplaced and stolen pieces of art.
GSA’s Fine Arts Program catalogues movable New Deal artwork housed in nonfederal repositories and serves as a centralized resource of information about New Deal artwork that is available to museums, the academic community, art conservators, and the public at large. An inventory of WPA art is maintained by the Fine Arts Program. While the inventory is not yet definitive, GSA is working towards a more comprehensive database.
OIG investigators work with the U.S. Department of Justice and the possessors of WPA art to recover the works for the government. In many cases, after GSA has authenticated the work and taken possession on behalf of the government, arrangements may be made with approved public institutions to display the work as “on loan.”
Several pieces have been recovered successfully. Some pieces are well known – or by well known artists - while others are less well known. A few pieces have significant value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (e.g., a painting by John Sloan). All of the artwork has significant historical value as a record of our national heritage.