Warburg Renaissance

The Warburg Institute Building Refurbishment Project

Warburg is Warburg, and everything else is everything else!
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, 2018

We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance not just to repair but to renew The Warburg Institute. The Warburg’s landmark building, originally designed by Charles Holden, has not been substantially updated since it opened in 1958: the ‘Warburg Renaissance’ project will make essential improvements to our existing building and introduce new spaces that will connect the Warburg with its origins in Hamburg and with new partners and publics in Bloomsbury and beyond.

The University of London is investing the core funding needed to refurbish our much-loved but long-neglected building. Our supporters have the opportunity to help us raise the additional funding needed to bring Aby Warburg’s inspiring vision to life, building in Holden’s never-finished courtyard, making the Warburg easier to find and more comfortable to use, and providing new facilities for teaching, special collections, exhibitions and public events.

The Warburg Institute: The Future of Cultural Memory 

aby warburg and brothers

 For more than a century, the Warburg Institute has transformed the study of art and history. 

The Warburg was established in Hamburg as the privately funded library of Aby Warburg (1866–1929), the scholarly scion of one of Central Europe’s great banking families. 

The Institute’s modes of classification and connection anticipated digital thinking, and its methods of gathering and tracing cultural memory were ‘interdisciplinary’ before the word was invented. 

Its survival is nothing short of a miracle. Thanks to the support of the Warburg family, Samuel Courtauld and others, the Institute was rescued from Nazi Germany in 1933 and became a permanent part of the University of London in 1944. As the only academic institution to flee Nazi Germany that survives intact in Britain, it remains committed to offering refuge in a time of migration. 

The movement of people and proliferation of images in the twenty-first century has made the different strands of Warburg’s vision and influence more powerful than ever. Today, we can apply the Institute’s founding mission, academic strength and revolutionary approach to inform contemporary cultural, political and intellectual work, completing the vision and the building that houses it for new generations. The project offers a unique opportunity to support the architectural and intellectual transformation of one of the world’s leading scholarly institutions and to shape the future of cultural memory. 

The original plans of Charles Holden's Warburg Institute


The Warburg Renaissance Project will provide the foundations for the Institute’s continued success, influence and cultural reach for many years to come. A complete renovation of the Institute’s iconic building in the heart of Bloomsbury will fulfil the vision of Aby Warburg and finish architect Charles Holden’s never completed courtyard to create perhaps the greatest concentration of colleges, libraries and museums in the world.

New spaces and programmes will allow the Institute to: 

  • Offer its expertise to new audiences; 
  • Host artists, curators, writers and translators in residence; 
  • Serve as a laboratory for experimental exhibitions; 
  • Provide a haven for scholars who have been forced into exile; and 
  • Connect with leaders in digital technology to share our collections and explore the ways in which Aby Warburg anticipated the Digital Age. 

The Warburg Institute has always been devoted to questions that dominate our digital age, namely: ‘How do I find what I need?’ & ‘What connects this piece of culture to another?’ 
Our bold aim now is to open up our work and make new connections, providing new spaces and tools for using cultural memory to shape our future.” 
Bill Sherman, Director, The Warburg Institute, 2018 

If you are interested in helping to aid us in transforming the Warburg Institute please get in touch with our Development Manager lewis.jones@sas.ac.uk