Ben Uri Gallery and Museum was founded in 1915, in Whitechapel's Jewish ghetto in the East End of London, by émigré Russian artist Lazar Berson.
Effectively closed after losing its space in 1996, the gallery and museum has been based in St. John's Wood since 2002, following the election of a new Board in October 2000. A new strategic direction was built around scholarship and expanding the remit from solely Jewish artists by incorporating the wider, diverse immigrant artist experience in Britain since 1900. In the past twenty years Ben Uri has curated some 100 distinctive exhibitions, toured to some 25 different locations worldwide and written and published some 40 scholarly catalogues and monographs which are distributed nationally and internationally. The majority of exhibitions were curated around Ben Uri Collection works and supplemented by loans from other distinguished museums across the country. The museum uniquely specialises in the work, lives, and contributions of Jewish and immigrant artists to Britain since 1900.
our core programming revolve around our research unit,
arts and mental health, and our collection
Research Unit (BURU)
BURU incorporates the Museum's Collection, Exhibitions, Publications, Archive, Library, and the physical and digital dissemination of all programming.
BURU is charged with creating and maintaining ongoing the country’s first digital resource that comprehensively records the Jewish and immigrant communities contribution to the visual arts in Britain since 1900.
Arts and Mental Health (BUAH)
This decade long objective is to identify through research and evaluation, 1) why and what are the elements of an art work that trigger the most engagement and responses from those who live in social isolation and/or with dementia, and 2) how best in terms of cost and effectivness to dessiminate such programmes with the 70+ demographics, of which 95% live in their own homes.
We have already published some 100 different evaluated programmes in this site, as well as 'how to' training films and toolkits. We have established that the most cost-effective means of engaging the growing 70+ demographics, currently over 7 million in the UK, and forecast to double in quantum and percentage of population, is through the digital format. This is our principle objective.
The Ben Uri collections span over 120 years and is composed of some 440 artists from 44 countries, of which 60% are émigrés and 29% are women. We have defined the 1100 strong collections into three categories: Pre-eminent; some 100 works which are protected in perpetuity within a separate legal trust; Core; some 740 works and Reference representing 250 non accession works. Since 2002, the commitment to building the Collection within carefully crafted and qualitative criteria has led to world-class additions by artists including Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, Marc Chagall, Jacob Epstein, Eva Frankfurther, Mark Gertler, George Grosz, Dora Holzhandler, Josef Herman, Peter Howson, Edith Kiss, Emmanuel Levy, Max Liebermann, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, Jacqueline Nicholls, Orovida Pissarro, Kurt Schwitters, Chaïm Soutine, Alfred Wolmark, and Clare Winsten. None of these acquisitions would have been possible without the greatly appreciated financial support of Art Fund, National Lottery Heritage Fund, ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and like-minded philanthropists.
Ben Uri surpasses ethnic, cultural and religious obstacles to engagement within the arts sector, addresses contemporary and historical issues of identity and migration, and celebrates, researches and records the rich Jewish and immigrant experience in the visual arts since 1900.
Presenting and sharing art differently, we have encouraged people to explore their own and their community's identity and creativity. We engage and deliver this outcome through three distinctive and fully interlinked divisions.
Ben Uri was founded by Lazar Berson, an émigré Russian artist, in 1915 in Whitechapel in London.
It originally was an art venue for Jewish immigrant artists who were unable to gain access to mainstream art societies at that time, due to the social discrimination and obstacles faced by migrant communities. A registered charity as well as a museum, Ben Uri was the cornerstone of the Jewish community’s cultural activity until the late 1970s. Ben Uri Art Society, as it was then, lost its gallery in 1995 when the synagogue building, in which it was housed, was sold.
A new Board of Trustees was elected in October 2000, led by current Executive Chair, David Glasser, to deliver a radical strategy to reshape and reposition the institution. The charity/museum was relaunched in 2001 by the new Board, with a new name, Ben Uri Gallery and Museum. It rented its current temporary gallery in St. John’s Wood in June 2002. It was seen as a ‘start up’ museum, piloting its way into the centre of Britain’s mainstream arena.
Since 2001, Ben Uri has curated some 100 exhibitions, toured to 25 different cities across 3 continents, published over 40 books and catalogues which have been distributed nationally and internationally. Ben Uri has produced over 100 short films. Its scholarship on Jewish and immigrant artists is recognised internationally. Ben Uri has also pioneered a new approach to using art differently through its Arts and Dementia programming within its Arts and Health Institute. Working with universities, the content and structure are the result of research and evaluation. The objective is to upscale and establish a new national standard for art interventions.