Museum of the Year Award Names Finalists for Its $150,000 Prize

The financial significance of the award has become ever more pertinent as economic pressure on U.K. institutions grows.

A rehung display at the National Portrait Gallery. Courtesy Art Fund.

The shortlist for the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year award has been announced today, with five institutions from across the U.K. nominated for outstanding achievements made between 2022 and 2024. Two major London museums, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and the Young V&A, have been nominated alongside Manchester Museum, Dundee Contemporary Arts, and the Craven Museum in Skipton, West Yorkshire.

The prize of £120,000 ($150,000) will be announced on July 10, with runners-up all receiving £15,000 ($18,000), making it the largest museum prize in the world.

Both shortlist and winner are selected by a group of five experts hailing from across the arts and culture sector. This year’s judges are artist Tania Kovats; broadcaster and journalist Vick Hope; former director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland John Leighton; and Anupam Ganguli, who is the Finance Director of the Historic Royal Palaces. The panel is chaired by Art Fund director Jenny Waldman.

A large white gallery with a spiral staircase and a yellow painted wall. Visitors sit at chairs and tables.

The newly refurbished Young V&A in Bethnal Green, London. Courtesy Art Fund.

Several of these nominations will come as no surprise, following major renovations and development projects that have already received acclaim. The NPG was celebrated for its three-year renovation project, which included a fastidious rehang focusing on greater representation and diversity, as well as a new entrance with doors designed by Tracey Emin.

The gallery’s director, Nicholas Cullinan, oversaw the project and will soon take over leadership at the British Museum. His appointment comes in the wake of an art theft scandal that resulted in the resignation of its former director, Hartwig Fischer.

The Young V&A is a child-focused satellite of the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum, situated on the other side of the city, in east London’s Bethnal Green neighborhood. The museum underwent a major rebrand, changing its name from the Museum of Childhood, and renovation, reopening in July 2023. The £13 million ($16.3 million) capital project included restoring the Grade II Listed building, revamping the permanent galleries, and enhancing the café, shop and learning centre.

Manchester Museum also underwent a massive transformation thanks to a £15 million ($18.8 million) project that included new galleries and visitor facilities. A 103 percent jump in visitor numbers is a testament to the newly displayed collection that spans archaeology, botany, earth sciences, ancient art and a “vivarium,” which houses living, critically endangered amphibians and reptiles.

Several people stand In a gallery looking at a colourful painting and a blue and yellow sculpture

Visitors in a gallery at Dundee Contemporary Arts. Courtesy Art Fund.

As the only Scottish finalist, Dundee Contemporary Arts has been lauded for major solo exhibitions by artists including Saoirse Amira Anis and Zineb Sedira, whose French Pavilion at the 2022 Venice Biennale was critically acclaimed. In June 2023, it also collaborated with Art Night, a traveling arts festival that showcases ground-breaking contemporary art in different cities around the country every year, for one night only.

Unlike the other institutions, which are situated in cities, the Craven Museum forms part of an arts hub in the market town of Skipton, which also includes an exhibition gallery, historic concert hall and educational spaces, all of which are designed to celebrate the heritage of North Yorkshire. It features over 60,000 objects including Shakespeare’s first folio, fossils quarried locally, and the art collection of local businessman Clement Roebuck. The museum’s major work in accessibility, including providing free and low-cost activities for families during the cost-of-living crisis, has marked it as a vital community resource.

Two children look at a display of colourful embroidery in a museum

A gallery at the Craven Museum. Courtesy Art Fund.

Speaking about this year’s shortlist, Jenny Waldman said, “The shortlisted museums for this year’s Art Fund Museum of the Year prize are shining examples of the impact museums are making locally and nationally […] Across a wide range of size and scale, these organizations are all real leaders in their field. I urge everyone to go and visit these extremely special spaces.”

The financial significance of the Museum of the Year prize has become ever more pertinent at a time of increased economic pressure, with major budget cuts forcing institutions to forgo basic upkeep and repairs, reduce opening hours, or lay off staff, all the while trying to support visitors and local communities.

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