Sustainability and Public Benefit Strategic Objectives 2020–40
The strategic objective is to be recognised as the pre-eminent authority and resource provider in these fields:
A pioneering art portal to grow engagements progressively with and through benuri.org – enhanced by our physical gallery and art reference library in St. John’s Wood, London
The Jewish and immigrant contribution to British visual culture since 1900, formalising, enveloping and considerably expanding our 20-year focus through the Ben Uri Research Unit
The design, production and national dissemination of widely accessible digital arts programming for the growing 70+ demographic using our collection as the source. This addresses the practical needs of the residential care sector housing 5% of the quantum and, distinctively, the 95% often living in social isolation and/or with dementia.
The Sustainability and Public Benefit strategic plan was published in October 2018 (see below) and provides detailed methodology on a seismic shift in how small museums can operate impactfully and cost effectively by redefinition of core purpose and impactful delivery.
Core to this reassessment of the operational disciplines was the prescient transformation to the digital arena, wherever possible, to exploit the unlimited possibilities of a virtual world, benuri.org is the result which incorporates benuricollection.org and buru.org.uk and is a pioneer of a fullscale virtual museum and research centre
The width and depth of content of benuri.org is unparalleled within the sector and expands continually
benuri.org currently presents:
Research Centre for the study and digital recording of the Jewish and immigrant contribution to British visual culture since 1900. Already some 300 individual profiles have been published and some 1,000 candidates undergoing research. This long-term public benefit art programme generates new scholarship, films, podcasts, oral testimonies, exhibitions, publications and collection acquisitions all of which have wide and valuable public benefit applications.
Collections –over 850 works including the 100-strong ‘pre-eminent’ collection trust. All works are fully digitised, searchable with full artist biographies.
Archives – some 10,000 pages of archives since Ben Uri was founded in Whitechapel 1915, including a complete record of over 700 archived exhibitions since 1925.
Arts and Health – our second core public benefit programme pioneering researched, cost-effective, national digital arts programming for the exponentially growing 70+ demographic using our collection of principally Jewish and refugee / immigrant artists as its source
A digital institution with a physical presence, rather than the museum norm of being a physical institution with a digital presence.
Ben Uri's 2019 Sustainability and Public Benefit Strategic Plan repositioned the gallery and museum to the digital arena as part of a wholesale reappraisal of the traditional museum operating model, in order to ensure its purposeful and meaningful long-term survival.
Every aspect of how this charity and museum operates was critically evaluated against a range of criteria with the public benefit and charity objects' return on charitable funds invested at the forefront.
Our recognition of scale and foreseeable resources was based on a forecasted steady dilution of financial support for small-sized charities and arts institutions, given the ever-increasing demands to support society's social care needs. The Board, in unison with its management, concluded the standard one sized museum glove did not fit Ben Uri.
This conclusion directed us to focus more astutely and to restrict our investments to our programming areas that generated a distinctive and relevant public benefit. Funding was a constant year-on-year struggle and the Board forecasted a shortfall of finances to restructure its balance sheet, deliver the new strategic plan and the institution’s digital repositioning. After some years of discussion and consultation, the decision was taken to very carefully select unfettered works that were rarely or never exhibited; a slow number of which were identified for sale by auction at Sotheby’s. The sums raised were reinvested in our major areas of public benefit, being the Research Unit, the Arts and Health Institute and the digital repositioning. Each of these three focus areas revolve around using our collection as their inspiration and source.
In September 2018 the country’s 17 leading bodies of the arts sector published a joint statement on ‘museums and collections at risk’ declaring, “However, the responsibility for the stewardship of the museum, its buildings and collections remains with the governing bodies and ineffective response will depend on the willingness of an organisation to take ownership of its issues.”
This is a doctrine that has always been in force at Ben Uri and the crafting and implementation of the 2019 Strategic Plan, published in October 2018, fully demonstrated the required 'willingness to take ownership of our issues'.
Ben Uri 2019 Strategy Press Release (PDF 107Kb)