Victoria and Albert Museum wins Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016

London's iconic museum of art and design was announced as the winner of the £100,000 prize by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge at a ceremony at the Natural History Museum.

Watch our short film of the ceremony, above.

Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director and chair of the 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. 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 remarkable finalists, including Arnolfini (Bristol), Bethlem Museum of the Mind (London), Jupiter Artland (West Lothian), and York Art Gallery (Yorkshire).

Art Fund awards the Museum of the Year prize annually to one outstanding museum, which, in the opinion of the judges, has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement across the previous 12 months. It is the biggest museum prize in the world and the largest arts award in Britain.

2015 saw a remarkable transformation for the V&A. It attracted nearly 3.9 million visitors to its sites, 14.5 million visitors online and 90,000 V&A Members, the highest in the museum’s 164-year history. December 2015 saw the Europe 1600–1815 galleries opening to great acclaim. 2015 also heralded one of their most popular exhibition programmes. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty became the V&A’s most-visited exhibition, attracting a record breaking 493,043 visitors from 87 countries, while the India Festival of exhibitions engaged visitors in the rich and varied culture of South Asia. Also, a major fundraising appeal reunited four angels originally created for the tomb of Cardinal Wolsey, one of the most powerful men in Tudor England.

Martin Roth, director of the V&A, said: 'We are truly honoured to be awarded the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016. It is fantastic to be recognised for our many achievements last year, from the Europe 1600–1815 Galleries – the £12.5m project which completed the restoration of the entire front section of the museum – to the cutting edge public programme, headlined of course by the record-breaking Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition. Winning this award is a perfect way to thank everyone who has made these successes possible: our staff, visitors, funders, and our many partners and colleagues across organisations around the world. I would like to thank the judges for acknowledging the V&A during this truly exciting period of our growth, and I congratulate all the other shortlisted museums who so ably demonstrate the richness and variety of the UK’s unique arts and culture scene.

'The V&A is thriving as a world-class museum and centre of excellence for research and expertise. This award not only allows us to celebrate our achievements over the past year, but it will progress our ambitions to continue to transform our building and make our unparalleled collections of art and design accessible to the widest possible audiences in the UK and overseas. With this prize we plan to revive the Museum’s legendary Circulation department, which collected and shared the best of contemporary design with regional museums, galleries and art colleges, but which closed in 1976. 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 continue to deliver on our ambition to be both a national museum for a local audience and a local museum for a national audience.'

Among the 370 guests at the ceremony were artists Antony Gormley, Grayson Perry, Michael Craig-Martin, Cornelia Parker, Mat Collishaw, Gavin Turk and Yinka Shonibare; 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); Axel Rüger (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam); and Ed Vaizey, Minister of State for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries.

The 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; Stephen Deuchar (chair of the panel), director, Art Fund.

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