Ben Uri uses art differently to generate distinctive and measurable public benefit.

Ben Uri was founded in Whitechapel in the Jewish East End of London by a Russian Jewish emigre artist in 1915. It proudly served the London Jewish community for 80 years as a community art society until it effectively closed in 1995.

In 2001 it was relaunched with a different and expanded brief to build on the Jewish immigrant artistic experience as the core of an enlarged landscape encompassing the totality of the  immigrant artistic contribution to British visual culture.

It has broken much new ground within some 100 exhibitions and has toured to some 25 cities across 3 continents. It has an extensive museum-to-museum collection loan and partnership programme. It has redefined, deaccessioned and qualitatively, as well as quantitively, built the collection reflecting its focus themes through the generous support of the Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund, V&A Purchase Grant Fund and many philanthropists, many of whom prefer anonymity. Examples of seminal works added since 2002 include examples by Auerbach, Bomberg, Chagall, Epstein, Frankfurther, Gertler, Grosz, Herman, Howson, Orovida, Pissarro, Rosenberg, Schwitters and Soutine. Scholarship was introduced as the thread running through all collecting, exhibitions and publications in 2001 and remains the core of Ben Uri.

Its ambition was to raise tens of millions to open a centrally located Museum of Art, Identity and Migration but did not succeed and after presenting its hugely successful centenary exhibition at Somerset House it launched an extensive options analysis to carve out a viable future. In 2018 it published a radical reassessment of how this small museum can operate most effectively and best leverage its cultural heritage and assets to maximise distinctive public benefit.

In late 2018 it initiated the seismic transformation of the standard business model of the Physical supported by the Digital into the Digital supported by the Physical – the first full scale virtual museum and research centre enhanced by a vibrant gallery programme.

Ben Uri is one of over 1600 / 50% of UK Museums categorised as small and over 2600 / 80% categorised as small and medium sized. For this purposeful and ambitious institution digital programming represents the most cost, and engagement, effective future to globally disseminate its Collection, Exhibitions, Scholarship, and Arts and Mental Health departments as free of restrictive physical space limitations and at significantly reduced costs.

This hybrid model allows Ben Uri to fulfil their charity objects and generate valuable relationships, through innovative sharing of their scholarship and research projects, collections, archives, exhibitions, digital catalogues, films, podcasts, schools and family learning, and their important, pioneering arts and mental health institute.

All the images sourced for this newsletter are from the Ben Uri collection, available online here.

JOE ROSE, 1982, BOTTLE WOMAN, papier-mâché and glass
60 x 9.5 x 15.5
signed and dated, bottom of figure above plinth: Joe Rose 82
@Joe Rose estate
Photo: Ben Uri Gallery

Ben Uri Gallery at a Glance

Ben Uri Gallery and Museum was founded in 1915 in London’s Jewish East End by Lazar Berson, a Jewish Russian artist previously sharing an apartment with sculptor Jacques Lipchitz in Paris. It lost its gallery and effectively closed as a public institution in 1995.  In 2001 it relaunched in the centre of the mainstream of British visual culture. In 2015 London celebrated Ben Uri’s centenary at a hugely successful exhibition titled ‘Out of Chaos’. In 2016 it launched an extensive options analysis and in October 2018 published its radical reassessment of how this small museum can operate through its  Public Benefit and Sustainability Strategic Plan. In 2019 it launched the first full-scale virtual museum and research centre for the study of the Jewish and immigrant contribution to the visual arts in Britain since 1900 – supported by its vibrant gallery programme.

Today, the gallery in Boundary Road, St John’s Wood in London, houses the Research Centre, the art reference library, the Arts and Health Institute, curates focused exhibitions and showcases the collection. Reflecting its history, this principally represents artists of European Jewish descent, but since 2002, the remit has widened to include immigrant artists from all national, ethnic and religious origins, who have helped to enrich Britain’s cultural landscape. The pre-eminent and core collections contain some 880 works by more than 390 artists of whom 29% are women and 70% immigrant.

To understand more about the unique vision for this virtual gallery watch Ben Uri Chair, David Glasser, by clicking here.

Ben Uri Collection

The new virtual Ben Uri offers vast resources at benuri.org. It includes over 40 exhibitions in classic and 3D format, some 700 archive exhibitions and reference points  from 1925, over 100 films, 200 school learning programmes and 100 arts and mental health interventions all downloadable.   

Ben Uri’s extensive collections are available to view for free either through Benuri.org or its own dedicated site at Benuricollection.org.uk

Access the full gamut of virtual exhibitions by clicking here and take the opportunity to immerse yourself into a 3D Exhibition too while you are at it.  We have highlighted one in our spotlight section below.

DAVID BOMBERG BRITISH, 1890-1957, GHETTO THEATRE
oil on canvas
74.4 x 62
and dated (lower left): Bomberg 1920
@Ben Uri Collection, courtesy of David Bomberg estate
Photo: Bridgeman images

Ben Uri Research Unit (BURU)

The Ben Uri Research Unit’s aim is to centralise research on and record the Jewish and immigrant contribution to British visual culture since 1900.

The Research Unit has over 800 candidates under research and has published over 500 profiles which are available to view at no cost either through Benuri.org or its own dedicated site at Buru.org.uk

This growing body of research is of most value to the academic sector whether teacher or student as well as researchers from the public and private art sectors.

Further outcomes of Ben Uri Research Unit include their programme of exhibitions, related events and publications, audio recordings (including oral histories, curatorial and guest talks), film, and links to external resources.

To further explore and appreciate the work of the BURU, click here and view their virtual database.

Ben Uri Arts and Mental Health

Ben Uri Arts and Mental Health uses art very differently. It is a national initiative and presents, as core, a commitment to developing researched and evaluated digital art interventions for the exponentially growing 70+ demographic living in care settings or at home (their own or their families) with a particular focus on those living in social isolation or with dementia.

The Ben Uri collection is at the heart of this creative outreach programme. Interpreting high-quality art into replicable, cost-effective art discussion and art making sessions, with an accompanying training programme for carers. A secondary but important benefit is it enables the museum to reach a broader, more diverse audience.

Ben Uri is currently looking for partners to work collaboratively to curate and produce digital television programming supporting and engaging older people often living in social isolation and or with dementia.

(Read more)

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Contact Info


108a Boundary Road, off Abbey Road St John’s Wood London NW8 0RH UK.


admin@benuri.org   https://benuri.org

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