About the Ben Uri Collection

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, reflecting the museum’s ethos of being 'The Art Museum for Everyone'.

The collection covers all mediums and subject areas from the mid-19th century through to the present day. In the period 2001–12, nearly 160 new, 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.

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Acquisitions process

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 Curatorial and Learning Teams, and members of its International Advisory Board, who are all specialists and experts in a relevant field. As part of the acquisitions process, Ben Uri will consult and refer to 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

Read article about the gallery's:

Acquisition of Josef Herman's painting Refugees

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 will meet the requirements of the 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 seen or taught and/or adds little to the overall strength of the collection. Ben Uri prefers all artwork to be displayed for the enjoyment of families or 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 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, Mark Gertler, George Grosz, Sir Jacob Epstein and Emmanuel Levy, to name but a few, without the generous support of the key funding institutions:

  • Art Fund
  • V&A Purchase Grant Fund
  • Arts Council
  • Heritage Lottery Fund

The role of our valued individual supporters has also been crucial; without their help we could not have raised the £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 added over £3m of commercial value to the collection. As a result, we have also added immeasurably to the intellectual and social history value of the collection, which has been expertly communicated by our Learning Team to schools across the UK.

Proposing and donating work for Ben Uri

We welcome inquiries about adding important works from any period to the Ben Uri Collection and our Curatorial and Learning Teams will consider all submissions. It will make recommendations to Ben Uri’s Collections and Acquisitions Committee, which meets quarterly.

Please submit acquisition proposals in writing, with accompanying image/s, to our Collections department at Ben Uri, 108A Boundary Road, London NW8 0RH. We will respond by return. Please note: new government tax initiatives are being announced this autumn for donors presenting works to organisations such as Ben Uri.

Explore the collection and recent acquisitions

In the last 10 years, Ben Uri has been fortunate to enjoy the support of the major grant giving institutions (Art Fund, V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Arts Council, Heritage Lottery Fund) and private philanthropists who jointly share our vision.

This has facilitated the purchase of a considerable number of significant works to our collection.

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Ben Uri's online collection