Acquisitions

ART, IDENTITY, MIGRATION

The Ben Uri Collections focus on the work and lives of modern and contemporary immigrant and refugee artists inspired by the museum’s immigrant Jewish founders and the influx of artists from central Europe who fled for their lives from Nazi persecution and escaped the genocide of the Holocaust.
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 through physical and digital channels, 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 2001–20, over 300 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 research colleagues will consider all submissions. It will make recommendations to Ben Uri’s Collections and Acquisitions Committee, which has quarterly scheduled meetings.

Please submit acquisition proposals with images, details and full size details of the work ignoring mounts and frames, by email to our Head of Collections, Sarah MacDougall, at sarahm@benuri.org or in writing, with accompanying image/s, to her at Ben Uri, 108A Boundary Road, London NW8 0RH. We will respond soonest possible after initial consultation. Please note there are  government tax incentives in place that could be advantageous 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 Research and Curatorial teams, and consultations when appropriate with known experts.

 

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 exhibited and/or adds little to the overall strength of the collection. Ben Uri prefers all artwork to be capable of being physically exhibited 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

    • ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund

    • National Lottery Heritage 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 been able to acquire astutely and effectively added over £6m of financial value to the collection. As a result, we have also added immeasurably to the intellectual and social history value of the collection which have enriched and inspired the work of the Ben Uri Research Unit and the Ben Uri Arts and Health Institute.

     

    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



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