Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017: what the judges said

  • 17 July 2017

Earlier this month The Hepworth Wakefield was crowned Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017, but our judges were hugely impressed by all five finalists – find out what they had to say below.

 © Marc Atkins

Lapworth Museum of Geology, Birmingham

The complete restoration of Lapworth Museum of Geology is a huge achievement. The sensitive transformation has enabled a significant national collection to be enjoyed in informative, eclectic and visually arresting displays. The museum has redefined what a geology museum can and should look like – and the seamless integration with the university and energetic outreach programme has firmly cemented its place in the local community. With a gifted and inspiring team, the possibilities are endless, and we look forward to seeing what comes next.

National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art, Newmarket

The judges agreed that the ensemble of attractions which make up the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art offers a wholly unique and very high-quality museum experience – not just for equine enthusiasts, but for all lovers of art, science, and British history, and for anyone or any family in search of a hugely enjoyable day out. They were deeply impressed with everything we witnessed at the museum, with its talented team showing admirable energy, creativity, entrepreneurship and friendliness along the way.

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

The judges were entranced by Sir John Soane’s Museum and deeply impressed by the quality, scope and powerful intelligence of the restoration programme. The ingenuity of its founder lives on in every aspect of the museum today, beautifully animated through the passion and enthusiasm of the professional team and generously shared with all visitors. The museum balances a deep commitment to scholarship and historical precision with an openness to technological innovation and a dynamic and far-reaching learning programme. It has become one of the richest museum experiences to be had anywhere in the world.

Tate Modern, London

Since opening in 2000, Tate Modern has transformed the way art is presented to the public, and the way communities of all kinds engage with, enjoy and learn from art. The unveiling of the beautiful Blavatnik Building last year marked a further step change in the achievements of this incredible institution, which has made impressive strides across the past decade in expanding its collection into new areas, especially internationally, and recalibrating itself as an arena for social exchange, dialogue and debate. The new spaces offer endless possibilities for visitors to be stirred, surprised and absorbed; from the bold performance programme in the Tanks, to the vista to the south of the city from the soaring viewing platform. The judges agreed 2017 confirmed and extended Tate Modern’s position as one of the most exciting and inspirational museums in the world.

The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield

The Hepworth Wakefield was a powerful force of energy from the moment it opened in 2011, but it has just kept growing in reach and impact ever since. David Chipperfield’s building has proved a perfect stage – both for the display of collections and as the platform for a breathtaking sequence of special exhibitions (including a retrospective of Stanley Spencer and a major Martin Parr show in 2016), curated with determined originality by the talented curatorial team. The Hepworth serves its local community with unfailing flair and dedication and contributes centrally to regional tourism too, bringing 210,275 visitors in 2016, up 21% on the previous year. 2016 also saw the launch of The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture, which earned instant national status, and there are plans on the horizon for an ambitious garden project in the year ahead. It’s the museum everyone would dream of having on their doorstep.

Visit Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017 to find out more about the prize, the history, the judges and all of the 2017 finalists.

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