Long list for The Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries announced

  • 1 February 2008

A unique exhibition created by soldiers, a groundbreaking new space that brings together medicine, life and art and a remarkable collection of 20th Century British art displayed in a series of historic harbour-side buildings are among the 10 museums and galleries that have made it onto this year's long list for The Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries. They compete for the £100,000 prize, which is awarded to the museum or gallery whose project demonstrates the most originality, imagination and excellence.

The diverse list of museums and galleries in the running for The Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries 2008 (formerly The Gulbenkian Prize) includes two museums that played a major role in the commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery, an entirely volunteer-led project overlooking the Exe Estuary in Devon, four leading London venues and two museums from Scotland’s most northerly islands.

The 10 long-listed museums and galleries are:

The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol, for ‘Breaking the Chains’
A powerful and memorable commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, which demonstrates the humanity of those enslaved by the transatlantic trade.

The British Library, London, for ‘Sacred – Discover What We Share’
This highly acclaimed exhibition brought together the world's greatest collection of Jewish, Christian and Islamic holy texts together side by side for the first time. 

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool
This new museum, which opened in August 2007, uses the largely hidden story of the transatlantic slave trade to explore issues such as freedom, identity, human rights, racism and cultural change.

The Lightbox gallery and museum, Woking
Developed with strong community involvement, this contemporary space combines an innovative approach to presenting local history with a dynamic display of modern art.

London Transport Museum, London
A £22 million transformation of one of London’s most iconic cultural attractions, the new Museum explores the powerful link between transport and the growth of London, its culture and society since 1800.

The National Army Museum, London, for ‘Helmand: The Soldiers' Story’
This unique exhibition, created by soldiers, explores the British army’s first campaign in Afghanistan’s Taleban heartland, Helmand Province.

The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney
The redesigned Centre on an historic harbour-side houses a remarkable collection of 20th Century British art and hosts a contemporary programme of exhibition, educational and outreach events.

Shetland Museum and Archives, Lerwick, Shetland
Set within a restored 19th Century dock, the Shetland Museum and Archives tells the fascinating story of Britain’s most northerly group of islands - from its geological beginnings to the present day.

Topsham Museum, Exeter, for the River Gallery Project
The River Gallery Project transformed the entirely volunteer-run Topsham Museum, creating a new gallery to house historic local boats and displays reflecting the local history of the Exe Estuary.

Wellcome Collection, London
This groundbreaking new space is devoted to exploring the connections between medicine, life and art. Over 1,500 exhibits, spanning six centuries, shine light on the past, present and future of medicine and contemplate our changing relationship with our bodies.

This is the first year that The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity has sponsored this major arts prize, which is open to all accredited museums and galleries in the UK.  The Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries recognises and stimulates originality and excellence in museums and galleries and aims to increase public appreciation and enjoyment of all they have to offer. 

Sue MacGregor, Chair of the Judges, comments:
“We're going to have an exciting and absorbing time visiting all ten museums and galleries.   Some of them are relatively small - Orkney's Pier Arts Centre or Woking's ultra modern Lightbox museum for instance.  Others are huge and all-embracing, like the Wellcome Collection of the History of Medicine in London, or tightly focussed, like the soldiers' own version of the conflict in Afghanistan's Helmand province, at the National Army Museum.  There are two different exhibitions to consider on the history of the Slave Trade:  one in Liverpool and one in Bristol.   Eventually ten must be whittled down to one - but I know we'll all have been bowled over by the imagination and inspiration we've encountered on the way.”

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund comments:
"With the prize now in its sixth year, the long list once again presents us with an impressive range of projects that reflect the ambition, diversity and excellence of our museums and galleries. The Art Fund is determined to encourage more people to explore the museum collections that we work so hard to enrich.  I’m delighted that we are able to support this important prize which recognises the most imaginative, innovative and popular developments of the previous year."

Following judges’ visits, four museums and galleries will be short-listed and announced in early April.  The winner will be announced on Thursday 22 May at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London during Museum and Galleries Month 2008.

The 2008 judging panel comprises:
Sue MacGregor CBE (Chair), broadcaster; Keith Khan, Head of Culture for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games; Diane Lees, Director of the V&A Museum of Childhood and Director Designate of the Imperial War Museum; Christopher Lloyd CVO, former Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures; Dr Mark Miodownik, Head of Materials Research Group, King’s College London; Maggie Semple OBE, Chief Executive of The Experience Corps Ltd; Emma Soames, Editor of Saga Magazine

Last year’s winner was Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.  Previous winners include Brunel’s ss Great Britain in Bristol (2006), Big Pit: National Mining Museum of Wales, Blaenafon (2005), The Scottish Gallery of Modern Art for Landform - part sculpture, part garden, part land-art - by Charles Jencks (2004), and the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law at the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham (2003).

For more information please visit: www.artfundprize.org.uk

Ends

For further information, images and interviews please contact:
Iliana Taliotis or Kate Wright-Morris at Colman Getty London
T: 020 7631 2666 E: iliana@colmangetty.co.uk  out of hours: 07931 341 112

Or Rebecca Salt and Jo Hardacre at Colman Getty Scotland
T: 0131 558 8851 E:  jo@colmangetty.co.uk  out of hours: 0781 2610746

Notes to editors:

1. The Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries is administered by the Museum Prize, a charitable company created in 2002 by The Art Fund, the Campaign for Museums, the Museums Association and National Heritage.  Its trustees are Penelope, Viscountess Cobham (Chair), James Bishop (National Heritage), Ylva French (Campaign for Museums), Mark Taylor (Museums Association), Sandy Nairne (Director of the National Portrait Gallery), James Naughtie and Eleanor Updale. 

2. The Museum Prize is registered as a company in England and Wales No. 421870 and a charity No. 1093174.  Registered Office: 24 Calvin Street, London E1 6NW.

3. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections and campaigns widely on behalf of museums and their visitors.  It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members.  Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.  In January 2007 The Art Fund successfully led the public appeal to save JMW Turner’s Blue Rigi for Tate, and in July 2007 was instrumental in putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire was secured for the nation.  Independent of government, The Art Fund is uniquely placed to campaign on behalf of public collections across the UK.  Visit the charity’s website at www.artfund.org