The Ben Uri Gallery and Museum will celebrate its centenary this year with a major exhibition in Somerset House: Out Of Chaos; Ben Uri: 100 Years in London running from 2 July – 13 December 2015.
In this exhibition, a group of rarely seen masterworks by mainly Jewish émigré artists will go on show from the Ben Uri collection, including works by the first Jewish Royal Academician, Solomon Hart, Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, First World War poet Isaac Rosenberg, Jacob Epstein, Max Liebermann, Josef Herman, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and R B Kitaj.
A group of important recent acquisitions will also be shown including La Soubrette (1933), a rare portrait – probably the finest in the UK – by Chaïm Soutine, acquired in 2012; The Interrogation (1938) by George Grosz, acquired in 2010; Chagall’s rare and rediscovered response to the Holocaust, Apocalypse en Lilas, Capriccio (1945), acquired in 2010, and Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II (2004) by Frank Auerbach, acquired in 2006.
The exhibition also reflects the prominence of women artists in the Ben Uri Collection since its foundation, including Clare Winsten (1894–1989), Lily Delissa Joseph (1863–1940) Amy Drucker (1873–1951), Chana Kowalska (1907–1941), Irma Stern (1894–1966), Eva Frankfurther (1930–1959), Clara Klinghoffer (1900–1970), Dorothy Bohm (1924– ) and Sophie Robertson (1988–).
Tate will make a rare loan of Mark Gertler’s most celebrated work, Merry-Go-Round (1916), his visceral reaction to the First World War. Presented to the collection of the Ben Uri Art Society, by Gertler’s dealers, the Leicester Galleries, in 1944, six years after the artist’s death, the painting was sold to the Tate in 1984, where it has remained ever since.
The exhibition will launch an innovative interactive digital archive, Our Story, Your Story, collecting stories from visitors of their experiences within London’s constantly evolving émigré communities and the contribution that they have made to the City in successive generations. Available on iPads within the exhibition, as well as online, Our Story, Your Story will also enable visitors to explore and comment on more of the Ben Uri Collection together with recently un-covered archival material, each work accompanied by its own narrative. Launching on 1 July Our Story, Your Story will be on www.benuri100.org.uk.
Ben Uri Gallery and Museum began life as an Art Society founded by émigré Jews in Whitechapel’s ghetto in July 1915, and is the oldest Jewish cultural organisation in the UK. It is the only art museum in Europe whose raison d’etre is to address universal issues of identity and migration through the visual arts. Its collection of more than 1,300 works by 392 artists from 35 countries continues to grow and principally reflects the work, lives and contribution of British and European artists of Jewish descent, interpreted within the context of 20th and 21st century art history, politics and society.
Out of Chaos is co-curated by Rachel Dickson, Head of Curatorial Services, and Sarah MacDougall, Eva Frankfurther Research and Curatorial Fellow for the Study of Émigré Artists / Head of Collections at the Ben Uri Gallery. Two extensive catalogues will be published to coincide with the exhibition including texts by Shulamith Behr, Richard Cork, Rachel Dickson, David Herman, James Hyman, Tony Kushner, Sarah MacDougall, David Mazower, Kathrin Pieren and Brian Sewell. A new film is currently in production, narrated by writer and broadcaster, Suzy Klein.