Ben Uri gallery loses bid for new London home

September 11, 2009
The Ben Uri gallery is currently in St John's Wood

The Ben Uri gallery is currently in St John's Wood

The Ben Uri art gallery, Anglo-Jewry’s leading art house, has lost out in a bid to move to a new home in the heart of London’s theatreland.

Chairman David Glasser said that while there was “enormous disappointment” that its bid to move the former premises of the Theatre Museum in Russell Street in Covent Garden had failed, an alternative plan would be put into action straightaway that would achieve the same aim.

“We believe we ended up in second place behind the Public Catalogue Fund. It would have been amazing for us to have a Jewish museum of art in the heart of London,” said Mr Glasser. “We have done huge amounts of work and it would have been superb. But we couldn’t beat the Public Catalogue Foundation.”

The museum, currently housed in St John’s Wood, had been advised that an application would have been looked on with great interest by the private owners of the venue, said Mr Glasser.

“We assembled a team of architects, designers, the whole package, and received many letters of support from museum directors around the world. The most encouraging thing for us is that it is astonishing that any Jewish museum could be considered by the mainstream and get to that point.”

While much of the work on the bid was given free, he said it still cost what he described as a “meaningful” amount of money, though he refused to say how much.

The process showed that the Ben Uri has been embraced and accepted by the establishment as a British museum that has a Jewish context and that it has become a representative of the Jewish community in the mainstream, said Mr Glasser.

“While we are disappointed, all the work we have done on planning and design will not be wasted as we have a ‘plan B’ and it will be transferred to that.”

Mr Glasser said that the alternative venue had already been identified and though it was also in Westminster, he would not give away the exact location yet.

“What is certain is that a prominent central London base is exactly where the Ben Uri should be,” he added.

Last updated: 1:43pm, September 11 2009