We reported 0n 30th October that the Ben Uri Gallery trustees had decided to de-access around 700 artworks, in order to fund wider plans to include immigrant and refugee artists from all global backgrounds.
Now ahead of the full sell-off of works, which began at Sotheby’s yesterday, high-profile members of the international advisory panel including Nicholas Serota, the chair of Arts Council England and Sir Norman Rosenthal former head of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy have resigned in protest to the decision made by the museum board. Twenty four works went under the hammer yesterday, including a masterpiece by David Bomberg, which realised £550,000.
“We were not consulted in advance on the proposed sales and believe that sales of such important works from the collection are a grave mistake. We believe that these sales will undermine the ability of the trustees to secure future gifts and a future home for the collection,” say the outgoing members in a statement. These also include Bruce Boucher, the director of Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, Professor Griselda Pollock of the University of Leeds and the independent curator Norman Rosenthal.
We were not consulted in advance on the proposed sales and believe that sales of such important works from the Collection are a grave mistake. We believe that these sales will undermine the ability of the trustees to secure future gifts and a future home for the Collection.
Despite our efforts to persuade the Trustees to postpone the sale so these matters could be discussed more fully, they have decided to proceed. We, therefore, have no choice but to resign from the International Advisory Panel with immediate effect.
We admire and are grateful for the way that the trustees of the Ben Uri have sustained the organisation over the past fifteen years. There have been many achievements with some important exhibitions and publications. Strenuous efforts have been made to strengthen the Collection through important acquisitions that have been supported by the Art Fund, the V&A Purchase Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Trustees have also tried to find a long-term home for the Collection as an independent museum and have explored the possibility of an association with university.
But we are unable to support the sale of works which we believe make up the very heart of the Ben Uri Collection.
The gallery celebrated its centenary in 2015.
Top Photo: Mark Gertler Nude (1938) © Sotheby’s images