After a record-breaking year, the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum has been named the Museum of the Year 2016. The judges said the museum had “indisputably” become one of the best in the world. The Duchess of Cambridge at a ceremony at the Natural History Museum made the announcement for the £100,000 prize which is the largest single arts prize in the UK.
The Kensington institution was picked from five finalists. Others on the shortlist were: Arnolfini, Bristol, Bethlem Museum of the Mind, London, Jupiter Artland, West Lothian and the York Art Gallery, Yorkshire.
“The V&A experience is an unforgettable one,” said Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director and chairman of the judges.”Its recent exhibitions from Alexander McQueen to The Fabric of India, and the opening of its new Europe 1600-1815 galleries, were all exceptional accomplishments – at once entertaining and challenging, rooted in contemporary scholarship, and designed to reach and affect the lives of a large and diverse national audience. “It was already one of the best-loved museums in the country: This year it has indisputably become one of the best museums in the world.”
370 guests at the ceremony included artists Antony Gormley, Grayson Perry, Michael Craig-Martin, Cornelia Parker, Mat Collishaw, Gavin Turk, Yinka Shonibare and Jonathan Yeo, as well as Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. The Art Fund awards its museum of the year prize to an establishment which has “shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement”.
The museum pulled in 3.9 million visitors, and 14.5 million visitors online. This success was mainly due to the major gallery restoration project and popular exhibitions like Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, in celebration of the innovative designer who died in 2010, which attracted a record-breaking 493,043 visitors from 87 countries. Its 2013 hit David Bowie Is retrospective, which embarked on a global tour after its London run, notched up its millionth visitor in Paris in May. Other highlights have included a major show of Indian textiles and a worldwide touring programme for the V&A’s Museum of Childhood.
Judges for Museum of the Year 2016 were: Gus Casely-Hayford, curator and art historian; Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor; Ludmilla Jordanova, professor of history and visual culture, Durham University; Cornelia Parker, artist; and Stephen Deuchar (chair). Last year the Whitworth in Manchester won the coveted prize.
Photo: © Richard Young courtesy V&A