The shortlist for the four redeveloped museums and galleries competing to be named the the UK’s museum of the year, by the Art Fund charity’s 10th annual Art Fund Prize, have been named. Chosen from a longlist of 10, they include the £35m Hepworth Wakefield, which opened last May, Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, the Watts Gallery in Surrey and the the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which has had a £17.6m redevelopment. Surprisingly three major new institutions, the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Glasgow’s Riverside Museum and Bristol’s M Shed were overlooked.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, chair of the judging panel, said: “Whittling 10 really strong nominees down to a list of four was a supremely difficult process, and I’ve no doubt that deciding on a ‘museum of the year’ from this list will prove equally tough.” Of the final four, the Hepworth Wakefield, named after sculptor Barbara Hepworth, has had more than 500,000 people through its doors since opening a year ago – far exceeding its target of 150,000 for the first 12 months. The building has won acclaim for its design by architect David Chipperfield. The Watts Gallery, dedicated to Victorian painter George Frederic Watts, recently underwent a £10m restoration and remain a dark horse in the competition, while the Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopened in December after the first refurbishment in its 120‐year history and The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter’s main city museum, also reopened in December after being given its first major redevelopment since opening 140 years ago.
The Hepworth Wakefield has become one of Britain’s most successful art galleries since it opened on 21 May 2011 and is preparing for a bumper birthday celebration this weekend, 19-20 May. The gallery has recently welcomed its 500,000th visitor (on 12 May, more than a week away from its first birthday) and been announced as one of only four finalists shortlisted to win the coveted £100,000 Art Fund Prize and become ‘museum of the year’. The Chair of Judges of the Art Fund Prize, Lord Smith of Finsbury, also stated: “This wonderful new gallery has completely transformed the physical and cultural landscape of Wakefield and the wider region. So much more than just a stunning architectural achievement, the displays of the museum’s permanent collections and the quality of its contemporary art programme are equally commendable. It’s clearly one of the success stories of the museum world in the past twelve months, but whether it can beat off stiff competition from the other three outstanding contenders remains to be seen.”
The winner, to be announced on 19 June, will pick up £100,000.