We hold Europe’s only collection principally dedicated to emigre artists whether refugees or immigrants by choice or as more often as a result of terror. This unique collection comprises of over 1300 works by over 400 artists from 40 countries of birth.
Art, Identity and Migration
Today the phrase ‘émigré artist’ may have a different meaning, because so many of us choose to live in other countries for pleasure, work and study, but there remains the same challenge of integration, of settling in a foreign land.
It is this study of art, migration and identity that lies at the heart of Ben Uri’s work. We continue to explore the artistic transition of artists today as we have for over a century, and since 2001 irrespective of nationality and religion.
The work and influence of immigrant artists are as important today as it was a century ago when the Jewish emigres including the Whitechapel Boys and often overlooked the Whitechapel Girls made their mark on British Modernism. The first home to so many of the immigrants then was Whitechapel and the East End of London where Ben Uri was founded in 1915 and little has changed since as so many new communities find a home, albeit cramped and impoverished, in the same areas.
Where to see the collection
Ben Uri has actively searched for a new Centrally located new home of appropriate size since re-opening in 2002 but finding an affordable site which is in the right location is, when budgets are tight and the money has to be raised, an immense task. Buy the wrong location and the institution is forced into a slow but sure terminal condition as sustainability is impossible within a city as competitive and vibrant as London. For the past few years we have sought a collecting, exhibiting and academic partnership with a synergistic university to maximise and enhance the Ben Uri museum strengths.
Until then, we can only exhibit a small proportion of the collection in our temporary exhibition space in north London. You may also see works from the collection in one of Ben Uri’s many touring exhibitions. You can find out more in Exhibitions.