Warburg Institute to receive major gift from Edmund De Waal

Tue 26 January 2021

Images by Hélène Binet

We are honoured to have been gifted the inscribed porcelain structure of Edmund de Waal's library of exile, which we plan to incorporate into the new design of the Institute as part of the Warburg Renaissance

The external walls of the library of exile are painted with liquid porcelain and inscribed with the names of the great lost libraries of the world. Our Director, Bill Sherman said of the gift: 

‘We are honoured and moved by Edmund’s gift. It will put his library of exile into one of the world’s great exiled libraries; and it will become a visible part of the Warburg Renaissance, a building project that will create new possibilities for artistic partnership and public engagement.’

Edmund de Waal's library of exile at The British Museum. Photo Hélène Binet   

Edmund de Waal and Bill Sherman at an event at the Warburg in 2019

 

In addition to his gift to the Warburg, Edmund de Waal will donate almost 2,000 books from his acclaimed installation to the Mosul University Library in Iraq to help rebuild its collection which was almost destroyed in 2015 by the group calling itself the Islamic State.

library of exile was conceived as a temporary pavilion designed as a place of contemplation and dialogue, where visitors are encouraged to sit and read the books almost all of which are in translation, exploring the idea of language as migration - from Ovid, Tacitus and Voltaire to the German children’s writer Judith Kerr. It was first unveiled during the Venice Biennale in 2019 at the 16th century Ateneo Veneto (May – September 2019), before travelling to the Japanisches Palais, Dresden (November 2019 – February 2020) and The British Museum, London (March 2020 – January 2021).

Warburg Renaissance

The Warburg Renaissance is a major project which will transform the Warburg Institute by restoring its original vision and prepare it for future generations. This involves enhancing the Institute’s academic resources, teaching facilities and public offerings, creating new facilities for special collections, exhibitions and events, and consolidating meaningful links with our academic and artistic communities.

The Library will be expanded to allow for at least 20 years of growth, along with refurbished stacks and improved climate control. In its new home, at the heart of our remodelled building, the library of exile honours the Warburg’s history and ambitions for the future. Today it is the only institution saved from Nazi Germany to survive intact in Britain today, with literature in translation and the work of refugee and migrant writers and thinkers central to its mission.

We are currently seeking philanthropic support of £5 million to complete the Warburg Renaissance, and looking for partners to help us write the next chapter of our illustrious history.

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A Space to be

On Friday 29th January, 6pm the British Museum will host ‘A Space to be’, a free evening of readings and musical performances inspired by the library of exile, hosted by composer and presenter Soumik Datta and featuring original musical responses created by singer-songwriter Amahla, rubab virtuoso Shaphwat Simab, and Tasmanian-British saxophonist Yasmin Ogilvie, with readings by Edmund de Waal, Hartwig Fischer and other acclaimed writers.

Keep an eye on the British Museum's YouTube channel for the live event