Libraries and Exile

On Wednesday 27 March, we held a special event with the Warburg Charitable Trust for members of the extended Warburg family and esteemed guests. Twenty-six members of the Warburg family from six different countries attended, making it the biggest gathering of the family since the early 1990s. This was a historic moment for the Institute with the launch of the Warburg Family Circle, an initiative that invites family members to be part of writing the exciting next chapter of this illustrious institution.

The Institute’s Reading Room was transformed to host over 60 guests for dinner, drinks and a discussion to publicise the Warburg Renaissance Project, which is the programme of redevelopment and architectural transformation for the Institute and its building. It was a chance for extended members of the Warburg family, some of whom had never previously visited the Institute, to come together to celebrate their legacy and look ahead to the Warburg Renaissance.

The Reading Room transformed for the event

Libraries and Exile

Edmund de Waal, artist and author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, gave a talk on Libraries and Exile, which was themed upon the intertwined fate of books and people and the need for artistic and historical projects to help us understand them. The talk offered a personal account of the movement of exiled books and authors, previewing de Waal’s forthcoming exhibitionpsalm, at the Venice Biennale. 

The discussion touched upon our own redevelopment plans, in particular, our aim to provide a haven for exiled and endangered scholars and special collections in recognition of the Warburg Institute’s history.

Edmund de Waal gives a talk on Libraries and Exile

Warburg Renaissance

Our Director, Bill Sherman, presented the Warburg Renaissance project to guests and detailed our ambitions to shape the future of cultural memory by reviving and extending Aby Warburg’s vision. Redeveloping the Warburg Institute as a place that can combine research, display and public debate through new spaces and programmes, which will open up new possibilities, exhibitions, and audiences. 

An architectural model of the proposed refurbishment

In order to bring the redevelopment plans to life, there were displays from the architects, Haworth Tompkins, whose 1:25 model of the Institute building captivated guests. The model (pictured below) showcased the options available for the Lecture Theatre’s elliptical feature, which echoes Aby’s original Reading Room in Hamburg. Guests were encouraged to make their preferences known and the architects were on hand to answer questions about the exciting redevelopment plans.

An architectural model of the proposed refurbishment

The event was also an important chance for us to announce the fantastic news of a £1m lead donation from The Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, which is a significant first step towards our fundraising target. 

Bernhard Reemtsma, chairman of the foundation, said: “Aby Warburg’s legacy is much more than memory. It is vitally alive and we can still learn from his ideas. The Warburg Institute connects Warburg’s intuitive cognition to our present and future.”

Over the next two years, our development efforts will intensify with similar events and activities to secure the support needed to deliver the ambitious programme. 

Find out more about the project, and how you can support it