Ben Uri move fails

By Leon Symons, September 18, 2009
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The Ben Uri, Anglo-Jewry’s leading gallery and art museum, has lost out in a bid to move to a new home in London’s theatreland.

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

“We believe we ended up in second place behind the Public Catalogue Foundation. 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 Boundary Road, 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 had still cost the Ben Uri 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 mainstream representative of the Jewish community, 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.”

An alternative venue had already been identified which is also in Westminster, although Mr Glasser refused to say exactly where.

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

    Last updated: 11:12am, September 18 2009