The £100,000 Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2014 has been awarded to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The announcement was made at the National Gallery in London on the 9 July. The prize was presented by the British film and theatre director, Sam Mendes.
The judges thought Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) a truly outstanding museum with a bold artistic vision, consistently delivered at the highest level. They remarked upon the overwhelming mix of sensory experience – created by the harmonious integration of learning, landscape and sculpture, and brought to life with works by artists including Julian Opie, Henry Moore and James Turrell. The Yinka Shonibare exhibition, the sensitive restoration of a beautiful 18th century chapel, and installation of Roger Hiorns’ Seizure 2008/2013 were the crowning highlights of 2013 – the culmination of a 40 year journey of steady, strong and visionary leadership that has firmly positioned this outstanding museum as a world leader.
Stephen Deuchar, chair of the judges, said: “A perfect fusion of art and landscape, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park has gone from modest beginning to one of the finest outdoor museums one might ever imagine. In 2013 it really came of age – with art projects such as Yinka Shonibare’s extraordinary exhibition; the fruits of the expansion and consolidation of the landscape on both sides of the lake; and with the conversion of the chapel to house (as its inaugural exhibition) a major new work by Ai Weiwei.”
Announcing the winner, Sam Mendes said: “I’m genuinely honoured to have been asked to be a part of announcing this award. The dedication, love, and unbelievable creativity of the six candidates for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year are clear for all to see, as is the creative health of the UK Museum community as a whole. Financial health is a different matter, however — and in that respect this award is a crucially important boost to one deserving organisation.”
Peter Murray, founding and executive director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park said: “We are so surprised and honoured to win this major award. It’s extremely important to have the validation of our peers. This award is dedicated to our incredible staff, the artists with whom we’re privileged to work so closely, and our truly wonderful visiting public.”
Yorkshire Sculpture Park was chosen from a shortlist of six finalists: Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, East Sussex, Hayward Gallery, London, the Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, Tate Britain, London, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield.
The panel of judges chaired by Art Fund director, Stephen Deuchar, were Sally Bacon, director of the Clore Duffield Foundation; Michael Craig-Martin RA, artist; Wim Pijbes director of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and Anna Somers Cocks, chief executive of The Art Newspaper.
The Finalist museums
Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, East Sussex The museum was founded by sisters Hilary and Joanna Bourne in 1985 as a place to display their collection of works by local artists such as typographer and sculptor Eric Gill, designer of the London Underground font Edward Johnston, and printer Hilary Pepler. In 2012 a £2.3m grant from the HLF and other donors paved the way for a major renovation project, and the museum reopened in 2013 to critical acclaim. The new space has views over Ditchling, which allows the rare experience of seeing objects in the environment in which they were created. With a small team of staff and volunteers as well as a limited budget, a bold vision has been the catalyst for a truly transformed museum.
Hayward Gallery, London The Hayward Gallery is one of the world’s most adventurous and innovative contemporary art galleries and 2013 was an exceptional year for both the Gallery and Hayward Touring. Exhibitions addressed important issues in contemporary artistic practice, drawing creativity from neglected areas of art. ‘Light Show’ attracted 190,000 visitors – many new to the gallery – while ‘Alternative Guide to the Universe’ opened up collections of work rarely seen by the public and explored self-taught and fringe artists, and architects. ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ and ‘Dayanita Singh: Go Away Closer’ both brought crucial areas of current and recent artistic practice to London for the first time. In 2013, four highly eclectic Hayward Touring exhibitions, including: ‘All That Is Solid Melts Into Air’, curated by Jeremy Deller; and ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’, curated by Mark Leckey, brought intriguing combinations of contemporary art, historical artefacts and masterpieces of both national and regional importance to 750,000 people in 50 towns and cities across the UK. Through these exhibitions, the Hayward Gallery and Hayward Touring enlarged the range of material seen in museum exhibitions and drew new and diverse audiences to the visual arts across the UK.
Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth The Mary Rose Museum opened in May 2013, demonstrating excellence, innovation and imagination in the presentation of a truly unique artefact and its associated objects. The museum displays the starboard section of the flagship that served Henry VIII for 34 years before spending over 400 years buried under the Solent. For the first time, the ship has been reunited with the possessions of the crew and all the material of a Tudor warship. The Mary Rose and its unique collection of artefacts are now housed in an extraordinary and elegant museum, designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects with Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will.The permanent exhibition engages visitors through the intensely personal nature of the objects and the stories they tell of the people on board, providing an inimitable insight into Tudor life. Everything in the museum is from one archaeological site, capturing the moment when the ship and most of its crew were lost.
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich Housed in a listed masterpiece of modern architecture, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is at once a public gallery of art and a centre for scholarship. Its collections, exhibitions and activities are driven by two core ideas: the Modern and World Art. In the last quarter of 2013 the Centre completed a two-year strategic plan that saw every aspect of the institution’s functions transformed. Foster+Partners, the building’s original architect, designed new facilities, which include the largest continuous space for temporary exhibitions in eastern England; superb new spaces for the permanent collections; two galleries themed around modern and contemporary art; and a new shop, café and leisure area. In September 2013 the Centre launched its new facilities with a complete redisplay of the permanent collection of over 500 works, and its largest and most ambitious exhibition to date, ‘Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia’. The exhibition contained 280 works across all media and explored the artistic heritage of the region from prehistory to the present. In 2013 the Centre more than doubled its normal annual attendance.
Tate Britain, London The new Tate Britain was unveiled to the public in 2013. The transformation of the oldest part of the Grade II* listed building by architects Caruso St John marked a significant moment for the gallery. In May 2013, following the refurbishment of nine galleries to 21st-century standards, the world’s greatest collection of British art was represented in a new continuous chronological display: ‘BP Walk through British Art’. The display now places well known favourites alongside less familiar artworks. Additionally ‘BP Spotlight’ collection displays were also introduced to offer more variety and depth on particular artworks, artists or themes. In November, the main entrance on Millbank reopened, combining newly created spaces around a new spiral staircase along with the restoration of some of the most beautiful original elements of the building. New learning studios and a dedicated schools’ entrance and reception, together with the opening of the Rotunda’s balcony as an elegant members’ area, a new café, artist commissions and a new focus on the archive, have transformed the experience of the 1.5 million visitors who enjoy Tate Britain each year.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), Wakefield Showing work by UK and international artists, including Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, YSP seeks to provide a centre of international, national and regional importance for the exhibition and appreciation of modern and contemporary sculpture. 2013 was YSP’s busiest year ever with the presentation of world-class exhibitions by acclaimed artists such as Yinka Shonibare MBE, Amar Kanwar and Hans Josephsohn. The year also marked the momentous opening of Roger Hiorns’ Seizure, 2008/2013, an important and stunning addition to the Park. Its innovative learning programme has gone from strength to strength with the introduction of the groundbreaking new project, Breathing Space, the successful pilot All Aboard and further development of Spark, Ignite and Vivify, all of which have been vital in engaging new audiences and providing a unique art experience for hard to reach groups. In improvements to YSP’s 500-acre estate, restoration work was carried out on the Chapel and Dam Head Pump House.