Bentley drives Ben Uri move

January 22, 2009
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The Ben Uri art museum’s plans for a return to Central London were given added impetus this week by a new management structure featuring businessman Saimon Bentley as co-chair alongside David Glasser.

Mr Bentley — the former Blacks Leisure chairman and chief executive — will bring his commercial expertise to the search for a “20,000 square foot landmark Jewish Museum of Art. We are more than ready to fulfil the educational and programming potential. Ben Uri is internationally recognised and respected and has a world class collection. Our education programme takes images and stories from our collection to schools from inner London to rural Berkshire.”

It is 13 years since the Ben Uri left its long-time Soho home in Dean Street. In 2002 it acquired an exhibition space in Boundary Road, St John’s Wood, where Forced Journeys — an exhibition of works by artists who came to Britain to flee the Nazis — opened this week. Its global reach is evidenced by the invitation from the Council of American Jewish Museums to present an international seminar on provenance research at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on February 4.

Mr Glasser said that three sites for the new premises were currently under consideration, “all within 15 minutes’ walk of a national museum. We were waiting for the much anticipated downturn in property prices as we were not prepared to spend charitable and public funds in an over-inflated market.”

The plan could come to fruition in two-to-three years and Mr Glasser envisioned a central site attracting 100,000 visitors annually with at least as many attending Ben Uri events elsewhere in Britain and overseas.

Forty per cent of its audience is non-Jewish and he would expect that figure to increase significantly after relocation.

    Last updated: 2:38pm, January 22 2009