Ben Uri Refined Collection / Collecting Policy
Artist qualification on any one category criteria does not guarantee consideration but non-qualification on any disqualifies, unless under exceptional circumstances and proposed by the Head of BURU / BUC, and the Collections Committee
1. Founding and influential artists within Ben Uri’s history
2. First Generation immigrant artists to the UK, including those who were born here from immigrant parents within 10 years of their migration
3. Second Generation artists of very specific merit, either artistically or narratively
4. Artists adversely affected by German National Socialism and, in particular, the Holocaust between 1933 and 1945
5. Immigrant artists of the Ecole de Paris 1900-1939
6. Existing BU Collection works that are fettered either financially or by terms of the gift
7. Works on loan
New Collection quantity matrix; Number of works to represent artists within each category
1. Founding and influential artists within Ben Uri history: 3
2. First generation immigrant artists: 2
3. Second generation of particular focus: 1
4. Affected by Nazi era 1933-1945:1
5. Ecole de Paris artists 1900-1939: 1
6. Existing and future fettered works (financial or terms of gift): no limit
7. Works on long-term or time specified loan within categories 1 – 5: no limit
These new and progressive Collecting and Collection matrix disciplines, based on the objective of improving the quality, distinctiveness, operational and financial manageability of the Collection, dictate. The principle of pre-eminent works being ring-fenced and secured in the public domain and those assessed otherwise are fundamental to the development of the collection.
Gifts and Bequests
Work/s of merit offered to be included in the Collection have to add intellectual or artistic value, but may not be judged as pre-eminent and not candidates to enter the ring-fence. In these circumstances a clause has to be explained, agreed and included in the property transfer contract that the work may at some future point be substituted and either disposed of for the benefit of the institution, with the donor credit being transferred, or gifted to another institution where the work will enjoy more productive public engagement. This allows flexibility to continuously improve and upgrade the quality of the Collection without regenerating a body of work over-shadowed by new acquisitions, which end up serving little or no public benefit in long-term storage.
Whilst there is no specific numerical limit, curators will be aware of the numerical matrix and will only accept loans of artworks that are significant, central to an artist’s oeuvre and relevant to the BURU focus.
Loans will only be accepted following the inclusion of an agreed museum ‘break clause’. This allows the possibility of return to lender or translating into a gift to be sold for the benefit of the institution should, at some point in the future, Ben Uri have the opportunity to acquire a better example. A completely new innovation to encourage high quality loans for the Collection is based on the premise that when the artwork is not required for exhibition, either at Ben Uri or requested on loan to another institution, it returns to the secure wall of the owner. This allows continued owner enjoyment rather than lose a prized possession to the darkness of a museum store until the next exhibition occasion which is often years rather than months.
Permanence is guaranteed for new acquisitions if assessed as within the pre-eminent grouping.
Other purchases may in practice be long-term but outside the ring-fence. These works then become flexible in status should the opportunity to upgrade arise in parallel with the new policy for gifts and loans.
Accessions and Disposals based on new Collecting and Collection Discipline
Maintaining new quantitative and qualitative matrix
Some years-long exhaustive, curator refinement of the current Collection could generate approximately a 50% reduction in volume of works to around 700 key objects. This contraction is estimated to result in only a 10% reduction in insurance value. The final number will be dictated following discussions with artists and donors whose agreement will be sought over the three year project.
Over 150 works from the disposal schedule have been identified as candidates for free inter-museum transfers and twice that and more will be offered to charities and religious institutions where appropriate. All the works identified for disposal will have greater life in the private or public domain elsewhere than they do languishing unseen in our long-term storage facility.
This refinement will part facilitate the redefined strategic expansion of the Collection, the Research Unit (BURU) and the Arts and Dementia Institute (BUAD) to better ensure long-term sustainability and simultaneously maximise distinctive public benefit.
We will maintain the new artist numerical matrix discipline within each Collection context. Outside exceptional circumstances, once an artist numerical ceiling is reached, further more important accessions can only be acquired on the basis of an existing, unfettered and non-ring fenced work being released.
The three-year disposal programme is a direct result of the redefined Collection and collecting policies as previously detailed.
Principles and Process
Ultimately it is the responsibility of the Trustees to assess, evaluate and decide what strategic decisions are in the best interests of the charity to fulfil their principal obligations addressing long-term sustainability and enhancement of distinctive public benefit.
These criteria are assessed by ongoing critical and realistic evaluation of distinctive and incremental return on investment from human and tangible resources.
This principle of evaluating distinctive returns on investment to ensure we add rather than simply replicate is a very important addition to our charity’s evaluation of public benefit process.
Disposals – to enhance sustainability and overall distinctive public benefit
Through redefining and refining the Collection to reflect BURU focus we will simultaneously be able to increase investment in each expanded core area of the museum’s priorities. Each division, being Collection (BUC), Research Unit on the Jewish and immigrant contribution to British visual arts (BURU) and Arts and Dementia Institute (BUAD) is designed to significantly enhance our specialist and distinctive public benefit with each using our collection as its principal source of material.
Disposals and process will be fully transparent after discussions with artists and donors and achieved principally through inter-museum and charity gifts, by selected sale by auction (Sotheby’s have been selected to handle the very few works that reach their value threshold) and by other means, as the Trustees and senior staff consider most appropriate, to maximise returns in the best interests of the charity.
We are planning an extensive programme of over 150 potential inter-museum transfers and charity gifts.
No works acquired with the generous assistance of The Art Fund, The V and A Purchase Grant Fund, and the HLF are in any way affected. They were acquired specifically because they were assessed as pre-eminent in their context and are automatically included in the new ring-fence.
To continue to build the Museum Collection with the objective of assembling the UK’s most comprehensive collection of representative works by Jewish and immigrant artists to Britain since 1900 in parallel with the Ben Uri Research Unit. This will be achieved through a carefully considered, tested, new and progressive approach to how purposeful but small-scale museums can build their Collections qualitatively rather than quantitatively. This new strategy will allow us / smaller museums to compete with larger institutions yet maintain financial viability and affordability.
1. A completely new approach and contractual basis for curator-led acceptance of loans, gifts, bequests and acquisitions built on the works involved being assessed as pre-eminent or not. This follows the basic principle of the Acceptance in Lieu and Cultural Gift schemes.
2. Curator-led and designed disposal programme to refine and redefine the current Collection into a more researchable, accessible and increasingly exhibited body of work, without any overall dilution of quality or relevance.
3. Adopt the new Collecting and Collection matrix disciplines to enhance the quality, relevance and manageability of the Collection, linking to and reflecting the work of BURU.
BEN URI COLLECTION
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