As Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016 the V&A takes the crown from last year’s winner The Whitworth art Gallery at the University of Manchester and can boast to being an outstanding museum, which, in the opinion of the judges, has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement over the past 12 months. The museum also picks up a £100,000 prize.
In December 2015 the V&A opened its Europe 1600-1815 galleries opening following a major gallery restoration project that transformed seven prominent galleries and redisplayed and reinterpreted this world-renowned collection of 17th and 18th century art and design. In the same year the V&A held one of its most successful exhibitions Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which was the museum’s most-visited exhibition, attracting a record breaking 493,043 visitors from 87 countries. Savage Beauty also picked up a Museums + Heritage Award for Excellence in the Temporary and Touring category in May.
“The V&A experience is an unforgettable one,” said Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director and chair 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.”
The winner was chosen from five finalists: Arnolfini (Bristol), Bethlem Museum of the Mind (London), Jupiter Artland (Edinburgh), and York Art Gallery (Yorkshire).
HRH The Duchess of Cambridge announced the V&A as the winner at a dinner and ceremony at the Natural History Museum. Among the 370 guests at the were: artists Antony Gormley, Grayson Perry, Michael Craig-Martin, Cornelia Parker, Mat Collishaw, Gavin Turk, Yinka Shonibare; museum directors, Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery; Sir Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate; Martin Roth, Director, V&A; Sir Michael Dixon, Director, Natural History Museum; Charles Saumarez-Smith, Chief Executive, Royal Academy of Arts; Axel Rüger, Director, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries.
The judges for Museum of the Year 2016 are: 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; Stephen Deuchar (chair of the judging panel), Director, Art Fund.
Victoria and Albert Museum staff with artist Yinka Shonibare (third from right) © Rankin