Acquisitions

ART, IDENTITY, MIGRATION

The Ben Uri Collection focuses on the work and lives of modern and contemporary immigrant and refugee artists with a particular focus on Jewish artists forced to flee persecution or perished as a result at the turn and middle of the 20th Century. 

 

The collection is celebrated worldwide as the most comprehensive and important of its kind. Work is widely loaned and exhibited in context alongside work by artists from relevant peer groups. We aim to engage the widest audience possible, reflecting the museum’s ethos of being ‘The Art Museum for Everyone’.

The collection covers all mediums and subject areas from the late-19th century through to the present day. In the period 2001–18, over 300  new, carefully selected works (almost half by contemporary artists) have been acquired. Ben Uri’s specialism is in the lives and work of émigré artists in general, and, in particular, those who made ‘forced journeys’ to Britain in the early and mid-20th century.

Acquisitions process

Proposing and donating work for Ben Uri

We welcome inquiries about adding important works from any period to the Ben Uri Collection and our Curatorial and Learning Teams will consider all submissions. It will make recommendations to Ben Uri’s Collections and Acquisitions Committee, which meets quarterly.

Please submit acquisition proposals by email to our Head of Collections, Sarah MacDougall, at sarahm@benuri.org.uk or in writing, with accompanying image/s, to our Collections department at Ben Uri, 108A Boundary Road, London NW8 0RH. We will respond soonest possible after initial consultation. Please note: new government tax initiatives are now in place for donors presenting works to organisations such as Ben Uri.

Ben Uri adheres to a strict acquisitions process, which considers a range of factors including the cultural and historical value of an artwork and its condition. The Collections and Acquisitions Committee approve additions to the collection. This committee is guided by Ben Uri’s acquisition policy, along with Ben Uri’s Curatorial and Learning Teams, and consultations when appropriate with known experts and members of our International Advisory Board.

Limitations on collecting

The museum recognises its responsibility in acquiring additions to its collections, to ensure that care of collections, documentation arrangements and use of collections meets the requirements of the Arts Council England Accreditation Standard. It will take into account limitations on collecting imposed by such factors as staffing, storage and care of collection arrangements.

Ben Uri resists agreeing to accepting work, no matter how generously offered, which has little chance of being seen or taught and/or adds little to the overall strength of the collection. Ben Uri prefers all artwork to be capable of being  displayed within context for the enjoyment and educational benefit of the wider public.

Funding acquisitions

As a museum with registered charity status, Ben Uri relies on the support of both individuals and organisations to fund very specific and important, valuable acquisitions. The collection has been built up through purchase, donation and bequest/legacy. Ben Uri would not have been able to acquire significant works by Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, Marc Chagall, Sir Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Mark Gertler, George Grosz, Josef Herman, Emmanuel Levy, Chaim Soutine and Alfred Wolmark  to name but a few, without the generous support of the key funding institutions and individual generosity being:

  • Art Fund
  • V&A Purchase Grant Fund
  • Arts Council
  • Heritage Lottery Fund
  • You / Friends / Patrons in support 

The key role of our valued individual supporters is crucial; without their / your help we could not have raised over £1 million pounds needed to secure these works. With the help of these crucial partnerships, and the financial support of many philanthropic individuals and private foundations, we have added over £6m of commercial value to the collection. As a result, we have also added immeasurably to the intellectual and social history value of the collection, which expertly communicated by our Learning Team to schools across the UK and our Wellbeing team to the elderly, many living with dementia, in day centres and residential homes across London.

As part of the acquisitions process, Ben Uri refers to ICOM and Arts Council England best practice, current legislation and guidance notes, including:

  • Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003
  • Unesco 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property
  • Guidance on the responsible acquisition of cultural property issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2005
  • ‘Spoliation of Works of Art during the Holocaust and World War II period: Statement of Principles and Proposed Actions’, issued by the National Museum Directors’ Conference

Read article about the gallery’s:

Acquisition of Josef Herman’s painting Refugees