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The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

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

Lon­don N16

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