The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) has won this year’s Art Fund Museum of the Year award, pledging to support smaller museums and galleries all over the UK with the prize money.
The ceremony, which took place at the Natural History Museum, saw the art and design museum awarded the £100,000 prize by The Duchess of Cambridge last night.
Judges included 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, director of the Art Fund.
Imagination, innovation and achievement
They were tasked with selecting the museum or gallery that has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement over the past 12 months.
The V&A beat five other UK based finalists to become the overall winner, including Arolfini in Bristol; Bethlem Musem of the Mind, London; Jupiter Artland, West Lothian and York Art Gallery, Yorkshire.
Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director and chair of the judges, says: “The V&A experience is an unforgettable one. 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.”
“One of the best museums in the world”
“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,” he says.
During his acceptance speech, Martin Roth, director at the V&A, pledged to use the prize money to re-establish a department that was first set up in the 1970s, but later axed due to budget cuts, in order to support and collaborate with museums and galleries across the country.
Roth says: “This award not only allows us to celebrate our achievements over the past year, but it will progress our ambitions…to transform our building and make our…collections of art and design accessible to the widest possible audiences in the UK and overseas.
3.9 million visitors in 2015
“We will ‘re-circulate’ our collections, taking them beyond our usual metropolitan partners and engaging in a more intimate way with the communities we reach so that we can…be both a national museum for a local audience and a local museum for a national audience.”
The award comes after an exceptionally good year for the V&A in 2015, during which it attracted nearly 3.9 million visitors to its sites, 14.5 million visitors online and 90,000 V&A Members, the highest in its 164-year history.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty also became the museum’s most-visited exhibition, attracting a record breaking 493,043 visitors from 87 countries.