Museum of the Year finalists: Judges' comments

  • Published 15 July 2014

Yorkshire Sculpture Park was named Museum of the Year last week, but our judges were highly impressed with all of the finalists – here are their thoughts.

Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, East Sussex

The judges agreed that, on every level, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft does perfectly what a small museum should do: it is rooted firmly in its locality; its architecture is beautiful; it warmly welcomes its visitors; and its gallery displays are marked by beauty, grace and simplicity. They remarked that the museum maximises the relative modesty of its collection to full effect – only the best and most engaging works are shown, and all are presented impeccably. It is thus curatorially brave and uncompromising – a role model, indeed, that sets a new blueprint for what a small museum can hope to be and achieve.

Hayward Gallery, London

The judges agreed that the Hayward Gallery’s programme has undergone a distinctive and wholly praiseworthy transformation in recent years. Now imbued with a strong identity and a very particular sensibility, its exhibition programme is perhaps the most adventurous and singular in the UK today – characterised by being at once popular and extremely sophisticated. The talents and creativity of its director, curators, and learning team lie at the heart of this period of remarkable success, and promise still greater accomplishments to come.

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

The judges agreed that the scale of the Mary Rose Museum project’s achievements over the past several decades – in which it has undertaken the rescue and restoration of a great Tudor ship and its contents – is unparalleled, unprecedented and a monumental national achievement. The public’s experience in the beautiful new building is one of exceptional depth and quality, and the integration of serious archaeological and conservation research with engaging museum display (always a difficult challenge) is achieved with complete success. Judges look forward to the next stage in the mesmeric, unfolding story of the presentation of this great ship in 2016.

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is a landmark museum building, beautifully and imaginatively re-presented over the past two years. Unique both for the make-up of the collections and the uncompromising manner of their display, the Centre also achieves an unusually successful integration of active research and scholarship alongside the collection itself. An ambitious curatorial programme has brought about international partnerships, further helping to extend its reputation as both a vibrant part of the cultural family in East Anglia and a national museum icon.

Tate Britain, London

The judges noted that Tate Britain, holder of the world’s greatest collection of historic and contemporary British art, had undergone major and positive changes over the the last year through the architectural re-conception of the southern part of the Millbank site, and the bold and rigorous rehang of the collection. They felt it had successfully addressed long-standing circulation difficulties and now presented a much more coherent provision of spaces for the display of the collection, loans, exhibition, learning and public spaces.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

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 the 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 museum as a world leader.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the winner of the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2014. Find out more about the prize.

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