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I read with great disappointment that the Ben Uri Gallery is planning to sell major British-Jewish artworks to fund a new direction for the museum and research to be dedicated to “the art of immigrants of all faiths and nationalities” (JC, November 2). I am not against the idea of such a museum, which in itself is a wonderful idea but concerned about turning the only one in the UK dedicated to BritishJewish art into this generalist project which could be funded in other ways.
Do the trustees not have enough confidence in their own heritage that they cannot see the value of a Jewish art museum?
I was lucky enough to see their travelling exhibition of Bomberg at Pallant House in Chichester earlier this year — the sense of joy that “our museum” was presenting such a brilliant exhibition in a place not renowned for a Jewish population was inspiring and contributes to tolerance and understanding at a time when this is needed more than ever.
David Glasser suggests that they are in competition with the Tate, V & A and National Gallery, but so is every small museum. You compete by being distinctive and true to your roots. The Ben Uri has built its international reputation on its Jewishness — don’t let that go.
The problem with the Ben Uri is not the art but the location, stuck on the edge of Kilburn miles from centres of vibrant Jewish life. It logically should relocate nearer JW3 or the Jewish Museum and contribute to a wider cultural hotspot. It would add and gain with closer connections and partnerships.
Most shocking of all is the fact that it is selling the family silver to pay for this. These works are core to what Ben Uri is. Remove these and you have an empty shell. Once they are gone, they are gone. What a disappointment for those who have donated time and money to what is the only Jewish art museum in the UK.
Think again before it is too late. Show some confidence in the value of our culture and history — keep the Ben Uri Jewish. We can then make a significant contribution to a general museum of immigrant art for generations to come. Gordon Kay
The decision of the Ben Uri Art Gallery to dispose of half of its art collection is monstrous. Whether donated or purchased, the collection comprises not only predominantly works of art by Jewish artists but a major collection of art in its own right. Judging by the two million pounds they expect to raise, the works being sold will be the cream of the collection.
How ridiculous to want to set up an online dictionary of immigrant art by destroying the very thing the dictionary is about.
Would the gallery melt down synagogue silver to further a new project, replacing the real objects with online pictures? I hope someone can take legal steps to prevent this terrible sale and dispersal of Jewish art and art history. It would be a disaster for Jewish culture in this country. Alan Schneider