About Ben Uri


Press Release

Announcing two major initiatives, formally launching on 14 January 2019, marking a strategic shift of priorities for Ben Uri Gallery and Museum. Ben Uri now prioritises its public benefit by distinctiveness and return on investment of assets employed. The two new initiatives are: Please see the Ben Uri Press Release: 
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Ben Uri Strategy

Please see the Ben Uri Strategy for 2019 here: 
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A set of videos that explains Ben Uri today, yesterday and our vision for tomorrow.

Ben Uri Gallery and Museum was founded over a hundred years ago in 1915 in the Jewish ghetto of Whitechapel in the East End of London by an immigrant Russian artist, Lazar Berson, who came to London in 1914 from Paris where he shared an apartment with fellow Lithuanian artist Jacques Lipchitz. The museum is a registered charity (280389) and the only specialist art institution in Europe addressing universal and ever-more central issues of identity and migration through the visual arts.

Our collection principally reflects the work, lives and contribution of British and European artists of Jewish descent, now extensively interpreted within the wider context of twentieth and twenty-first century art history, politics and society.

From our inception as an art society in Whitechapel in 1915, to our current status as a museum with an international reach, the collection has grown to more than 1300 works across 30 different mediums. Made up of both historical and contemporary works, the Ben Uri collection includes master works by seminal artists including Auerbach, Bomberg, Chagall, Epstein, Gertler, Grosz, Herman, Levy, Liebermann, Soutine and Wolmark. It spans 120 years and includes 380 artists from 35 countries, of which 67% are émigrés and 27% women. More about our history can be accessed from our 100+ year timeline, online gallery and archives.

Our temporary exhibition space in St. John’s Wood, has, between 2002 and 2018, hosted an exciting and varied exhibition programme, exploring and incorporating works from our own collection. Ben Uri lost its gallery in 1996 and Boundary Road was and remains a small, poorly located, originally intended temporary space when rented in 2002 after 6 long years without. It was always financially and visitor engagement unsustainable but was never intended as a permanent fixture and remains infinitely better than no gallery. It was intended as a model for the scale and impact of public benefit Ben Uri could achieve and deliver if properly located and funded. The original lease was short and we planned to acquire an appropriate building within a few short years but this was not to be as we resisted temptation to seek charitable monies to invest in the wrong location that only ensures long term unsustainability.

The strategy from 2002 at Boundary Road was to demonstrate the value and impact that a fully funded, centrally located acquisition of a properly sized building was a worthwhile charitable investment but the seemingly unstoppable strength of the London commercial property market has far outpaced our potential and the Trustees accepted this reality following our centenary exhibition in 2015.

The new 2019 Sustainability and Public Benefit Strategic Plan reproduced in full on this site repositions the charity to ensure purposeful and meaningful survival either as a stand-alone institution or merged with most likely a university which can nurture and enhance our key objectives or should funding become available implement the strategy below which remains fully in tact as a preferred option.

Whilst the 2019 strategy ensures sustainability and achievable purpose within our revised realistic scale of potential financial support we share with you below our previous and still maintained preferred option should funding ever allow. The 2019 strategy develops the core elements of the plan within its revised scale building on the Jewish experience in British visual arts history since 1900 which is always our foundation and proud heritage.

Ben Uri uses art differently. We have two respected and distinctive research divisions within the traditional museum sector both emerging from the core gallery and museum collection and programmes. The first has developed into a lead source nationally and internationally for research into the lives, careers and work of immigrant and refugee artists primarily to Britain in the 20th and 21st centuries. The second addresses the potential of using art, practice or communicative engagement, within clinically assessed programmes focusing on older people and those living with dementia to measure cognitive awareness and the pace of regression.

Our purpose is to connect with the largest possible audience, drawn from the widest possible communities, in our exploration of Ben Uri’s artists – and to encourage others to explore their own identity and creativity.

Mission

  • Be known as ‘The Art Museum for Everyone’ with no ethnic, religious or other barriers to engagement
  • Each immigrant community feels ownership, kinship and belonging to the gallery and museum as if their own
  • Make a real difference to people’s confidence and lives through engagement, creativity and wellbeing
  • Celebrate and share the rich Jewish Experience in the visual arts with a diverse set of partner fellow immigrant communities
  • Continue to enhance our world-class collection adding yet greater range across immigrant artists primarily to Britain so it is seen and explored across all boundaries
  • Further develop our existing Research Units on Emigre Artists to Britain and Art and Wellbeing / Dementia into the preeminent research source in the country and a central platform of public benefit for our second century

Vision

  • Ben Uri Museum of Art, Identity and Migration incorporating the Ben Uri Collection earns its place on the ‘must visit’ priority list in London
  • c. 50,000 sq. ft. sustainable self-financing Museum with local, national and international visitor and community engagement at its heart
  • Located within an easy short walk of a major National Gallery or Museum or within the centre of a major transport and cultural tourist hub
  • Tell the story of migration to London from all the principal émigré communities and artists’ perspectives
  • Be a catalyst for other great cities in the UK and abroad to similarly explore, embrace and celebrate different émigré cultures as equals within their own diverse societies
  • Recognised as the best, most interesting and engaging art and migration museum in the world
  • If insufficient funding for a centrally located stand alone unit then a merger with a distinguished University who share our values and art, academic and wellbeing research focus is the most productive means to secure the valuable contribution of Ben Uri in its second century

Ben Uri Gallery and Museum is currently closed for refurbishment.
The gallery will re-open during March 2019.