A digital institution with a physical presence, rather than the museum norm of being a physical institution with a digital presence.
Ben Uri's 2019 Sustainability and Public Benefit Strategic Plan repositioned the gallery and museum to the digital arena as part of a wholesale reappraisal of the traditional museum operating model, in order to ensure its purposeful and meaningful long-term survival.
Every aspect of how this charity and museum operates was critically evaluated against a range of criteria with the public benefit and charity objects' return on charitable funds invested at the forefront.
Our recognition of scale and foreseeable resources was based on a forecasted steady dilution of financial support for small-sized charities and arts institutions, given the ever-increasing demands to support society's social care needs. The Board, in unison with its management, concluded the standard one sized museum glove did not fit Ben Uri.
This conclusion directed us to focus more astutely and to restrict our investments to our programming areas that generated a distinctive and relevant public benefit. Funding was a constant year-on-year struggle and the Board forecasted a shortfall of finances to restructure its balance sheet, deliver the new strategic plan and the institution’s digital repositioning. After some years of discussion and consultation, the decision was taken to very carefully select unfettered works that were rarely or never exhibited; a slow number of which were identified for sale by auction at Sotheby’s. The sums raised were reinvested in our major areas of public benefit, being the Research Unit, the Arts and Health Institute and the digital repositioning. Each of these three focus areas revolve around using our collection as their inspiration and source.
In September 2018 the country’s 17 leading bodies of the arts sector published a joint statement on ‘museums and collections at risk’ declaring, “However, the responsibility for the stewardship of the museum, its buildings and collections remains with the governing bodies and ineffective response will depend on the willingness of an organisation to take ownership of its issues.”
This is a doctrine that has always been in force at Ben Uri and the crafting and implementation of the 2019 Strategic Plan, published in October 2018, fully demonstrated the required 'willingness to take ownership of our issues'.
Ben Uri 2019 Strategy Press Release (PDF 107Kb)