From its launch as an art society in 1915, in what was a Jewish area of East London, through to its 2001 re-launch as Europe's only dedicated Jewish museum of art, in London's West End, Ben Uri's unique collection has grown to nearly 1300 works.
Jewish artistic and social life
The collection covers all subjects and mediums and comprises work by some 390 artists, primarily of Jewish origin, who were either born, settled in, or had a distinct social or artistic connection to Britain.
Together these works comprise a unique visual survey of Jewish artistic and social life during the 19th century through to the present day. The collection includes master works by Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, Marc Chagall, Jacob Epstein, Mark Gertler, Samuel Hirszenberg, R B Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Simeon Solomon, Chaim Soutine and Alfred Wolmark – and many more.
Jewish immigration to Britain
The depth and breadth of the collection covers two distinctive periods of Jewish immigration to this country during two critical historical periods. First, at the turn of the 20th century when migrants from Eastern Europe (primarily Russia), fleeing pogroms and religious persecution, settled in London’s East End. Second, in the mid-20th century (between 1933 and 1945) migrants from Central and Eastern Europe fleeing Nazi persecution settled throughout Britain, primarily in North London.
The works of these artists often reflect both their original cultural heritage and that of their new adopted country. No other public collection in the world shows this dynamic so well and generates such varied stories of so many different experiences as a result.
Focus of the collection
Covering three centuries, a diverse range of subjects and media, the Ben Uri Collection is a unique visual survey of Jewish artistic and social life. It specialises in work from the 20th century, reflecting the wider Jewish diaspora.
The collection is particularly rich in works by first and second-generation émigrés, including the 'Whitechapel Boys', a group of artists based in London’s East End including Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Jacob Kramer and Isaac Rosenberg.
The importance of émigré artists
Formed by émigrés for émigrés, the collection also reveals the wider émigré experience and reflects the culturally rich and ethnically diverse population of Britain in the 20th century and today.
Works by émigré artists number about two-thirds of the collection, particularly those who made ‘forced journeys’ during the years of the Nazi regime, including Jankel Adler, Martin Bloch, Hans Feibusch, Fred Feigl, Josef Herman, Ludwig Meidner, Else Meidner and Erich Kahn.
Recent exhibitions highlighting the émigré experience include Forced Journeys: Artists in Exile in Britain, c. 1939-45 (2010-11), Josef Herman: Warsaw, Brussels, Glasgow, London, 1938-44 (2011-12), and The Inspiration of Decadence: Dodo Rediscovered - Berlin to London 1907-98 (22 June–9 September 2012).
Eva Frankfurther Research and Curatorial Fellowship
The recent creation of the Eva Frankfurther Research and Curatorial Fellowship reflects Ben Uri’s ongoing commitment to the study of émigré artists.
Where to see the collection
Ben Uri is actively looking for a central London home for its permanent collection. 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.
Ben Uri artworks for loan
Works from the collection may be offered for loan to other museums and galleries. Please see Ben Uri’s loans policy. If your request falls inside the criteria listed, please contact Collections.
Viewing the collection online
The online collection currently highlights the work of around 200 artists in the collection. Go to the online gallery to browse by artist.
There is also an A-Z listing of all of the artists featured in Ben Uri’s collection, which gives you an idea of the breadth and range of the collection. Over the coming months we will be adding all works to the online collection, along with biographies on artists, educational resources and other features. If you would like to receive news updates about these or any other developments, sign up now to our mailing list.
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