Finalists announced for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2018

We're pleased to announce the five finalists for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2018, the world’s largest and most prestigious prize for museums.

Five UK museums have been selected as finalists for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2018, the world’s largest museum prize, which celebrates innovation and exceptional achievement in cultural venues across the UK.

The museums are:

Brooklands Museum, Weybridge

Brooklands was the world’s first purpose-built motor sport racing circuit, home to many British pre-Second World War motorsport events, and the busiest aircraft manufacturing site in Europe. The museum recently completed the most radical development of its historic site since opening 27 years ago. It has transformed its Grade II-listed Bellman hangar and constructed a new Flight Shed and Aircraft Factory to tell the story of designing and building aeroplanes from the early pioneers to the supersonic Concorde. The original buildings house an extensive collection of racing and classic cars, motorcycles, bicycles and other vehicles, but 2017 also saw the restoration of the racetrack’s Finishing Straight. Through all this, the museum explores some of the important technological developments of the 20th century – not just for its visitors, but also for students interested in science and engineering careers.

Ferens Art Gallery, Hull

As Hull celebrated UK City of Culture in 2017, Ferens Art Gallery was at its very heart. The building and collection, founded by local industrialist TR Ferens in 1927, has recently undergone a £5.2 million refurbishment of the galleries and a complete rehang of the collection in time for its January 2017 reopening. Major loans of works by artists from JMW Turner to Francis Bacon were displayed alongside new artist commissions – such as Spencer Tunick’s Sea of Hull – and the gallery hosted the Turner Prize for the first time. As a result, last year the gallery more than trebled its visitor figures to welcome over 500,000 people from Hull and beyond. The gallery also trialled a new digital submission process for its annual Open Exhibition, and, to help grow the audiences of the future, opened a space dedicated to exploring art with families and under-fives.

Glasgow Women’s Library

The UK’s only accredited museum dedicated to women’s history, Glasgow Women’s Library was established 26 years ago in a small shopfront with no funding, and has grown into a multi-award-winning resource, recently completing a £1.4m refurbishment of its Grade B listed building in the east end of the city. Through the success of its 25th-anniversary programme visitor numbers doubled. All the objects in the collection, from suffragette memorabilia to knitting patterns, have been donated, and local women from diverse communities have helped create the permanent displays. They’ve also commissioned artists to develop new work responding to the collection – Linder Sterling’s GWL project launched this year’s Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts – and they are developing best practice on equality and social inclusion that can be shared with other museums.

The Postal Museum, London

Telling the story of the mail, The Postal Museum has transformed from an archive with 3,000 visitors a year to a museum looking at the impact of post on society through a remarkable collection, innovative learning programmes and an impressive array of interactive galleries. Since opening six months ago 75,000 visitors have poured through the doors to explore the two interactive exhibition galleries, dedicated learning and discovery centre and Mail Rail, a subterranean train ride that follows London’s 100 year-old underground postal delivery network. The museum holds a number of collections, including the Royal Mail Archive, postal uniforms, pillar boxes and postal vehicles, and a huge collection of stamps, but ultimately it tells the story of the first social network.

Tate St Ives

Celebrating the important contribution of 20th-century artists who lived and worked in Cornwall, Tate St Ives reopened in October last year following a £20 million refurbishment of its galleries and the addition of an elegant new extension. An impressive 11,000 visitors attended the launch weekend. New spaces for display and learning have opened up the collection and the archives, allowing year-round access for the first time to works by artists including Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Peter Lanyon, as well as international figures who were inspired by the unique qualities of Cornwall’s light and landscape – Naum Gabo, Piet Mondrian and Paule Vézelay among them. A renewed engagement with the local community, who played a central role in the 12-year consultation which informed the gallery’s architectural scheme, has meant that more than 5,000 people have registered for the new annual Tate St Ives Locals’ Pass.

The winning museum will be announced at a ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on Thursday 5 July 2018 and will receive £100,000. The other four shortlisted museums will receive £10,000 each in recognition of their achievements.

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 in the preceding year. This year’s jury, chaired by Stephen Deuchar, comprises: Ian Blatchford, director of the Science Museum Group; Rebecca Jones, BBC arts correspondent; Melanie Manchot, artist; and Monisha Shah, independent media consultant and Art Fund trustee.

Speaking on behalf of the jury, Stephen Deuchar, director, Art Fund, said: ‘Above all, Art Fund Museum of the Year is a prize for exceptional originality and innovation. Each of our five finalists has tapped into very current concerns: the progress of Glasgow Women’s Library exemplifies the quickening march towards equality; the Postal Museum addresses our first social network; Brooklands is inspiring the next generation of engineers; and the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull and Tate St Ives are galvanising their communities around visual culture. Each one expands the very idea of what a museum can be. I would encourage everyone to see and experience them at first-hand.’

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