The Museum of the Year 2016: The V&A

The Museum of the Year 2016 has been awarded to the V&A. The £100,000 prize, the biggest museum award in the world and the largest arts accolade in Britain, was presented to the London institution by the Duchess of Cambridge at its neighbouring establishment, the Natural History Museum, yesterday evening. Organised by Art Fund, the prize is annually given to a museum or gallery that has demonstrated imagination and ground-breaking achievements in the last 12 months. Previous winners include Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Whitworth, and the British Museum.

Selected for its significant transformation in 2015, the V&A has welcomed nearly 3.9 million visitors to its sites and engaged with 14.5 million audiences online through its innovative and record-breaking exhibitions. Notably, a recent retrospective on the late London-designer Alexander McQueen entitled Savage Beauty attracted 493,043 viewers from 87 countries, while its Europe 1600–1815 galleries opened to great acclaim last December. The iconic art and design museum’s India Festival of exhibitions also drew an international audience with displays of the rich and varied culture of South Asia.

The V&A was handpicked from a line-up of nationwide finalists including Arnolfini (Bristol), Bethlem Museum of the Mind (London), Jupiter Artland (West Lothian), and York Art Gallery (Yorkshire) by an expert jury comprised of: 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, Director, Art Fund.

Deuchar, who is also chair of this year’s judges, said: “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.”

Last night’s ceremony welcomed an array of guests from artists Antony Gormley, Grayson Perry, Michael Craig-Martin, Cornelia Parker, Mat Collishaw, Gavin Turk and Yinka Shonibare to Museum Directors Nicholas Cullinan, (National Portrait Gallery), Sir Nicholas Serota (Tate), Martin Roth (V&A), Sir Michael Dixon (Natural History Museum), Charles Saumarez-Smith (Royal Academy of Arts), and Axel Rüger (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

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1. Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Photograph by Polly Braden.