Announcing the winners of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020

We're pleased to announce the five winning museums who will share this year's prize.

In a unique edition of the prize, we’ve announced Aberdeen Art Gallery, Gairloch Museum, Science Museum, South London Gallery, and Towner Eastbourne as the five winners of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020, and they’ll that will share an increased £200,000 prize.

In response to the unprecedented challenges facing the museum sector, we’ve taken a different approach to Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2020, selecting five winners and increasing the prize money by 40%. The winners have been chosen for their achievements in 2019-20, from bringing art to local audiences, moving to a repurposed nuclear bunker, redisplaying collections through major refurbishment, making their museums a community hub, opening new permanent galleries and championing under-represented artists.

Jenny Waldman, Director, Art Fund, said: 'The winners are exceptional examples of museums offering inspiration, reflection and joy in the heart of communities. The UK’s museums - admired worldwide and vital locally – were thriving before Covid-19. They can help rebuild our communities and confidence as we emerge from the virus. But they face financial peril. Not only do we need sustained investment from government, but we encourage everyone to go and explore their local museum – they need our support now.'

From 12–16 October, specially coinciding with the BBC Art’s #museumpassion season, we’re celebrating the five winners with events staged by the museums that include a mindfulness retreat, a panel discussion on art and sustainability with Caroline Lucas and chaired by David Dimbleby, storytelling by Outlander star Sam Heughan and a live archaeological dig.

The judges for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 are: Jago Cooper (Curator of the Americas, The British Museum), Dame Liz Forgan (Trustee, Art Fund), Ryan Gander (artist), Melanie Keen (Director, The Wellcome Collection) and Jenny Waldman (Director, Art Fund). They chose the museums for their achievements in 2019 – 20:

Aberdeen Art Gallery

Following a once-in-a-lifetime transformation, Aberdeen Art Gallery has been completely re-imagined to get the most out of its exceptional collection of art and heritage, celebrated as among the finest in the UK.

The judges were impressed with the results of the museum’s redevelopment project. Finished in 2019, it has allowed the creation of major new exhibition and education spaces, greatly improved visitor facilities, enhanced accessibility, and increased the number of works on show from 370 to 1080. The gallery’s commitment to involve the people of the city in its future was also celebrated by the judges.

Gairloch Museum

The story of this independent museum located in the village of Gairloch, in the Wester Ross region of Scotland is one of rebirth, people-power and local pride. Founded in 1977, Gairloch Museum was relocated in 2019 to a new building, a repurposed nuclear bunker, thanks to the work of its more than 120 volunteers and the support of the community.

Since its foundation, Gairloch Museum’s mission is to preserve the heritage, history & culture of the area. The redisplay of its collection has reanimated the village, created a buzzing new community hub, and produced a sustainable cultural landmark for generations of visitors to enjoy, achievements that have been recognized by the judges of Art Fund Museum of the Year.

Science Museum

A well-known landmark in London’s South Kensington, the Science Museum has undergone a deep transformation over a decade of thinking big, thinking local, and thinking radically. In 2019, the museum opened two exceptional new permanent galleries (Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries and Science City 1550-1800: The Linbury Gallery), hosted its biggest ever sleepover to mark the Apollo 11 anniversary and was the last stop of Tim Peake’s spacecraft nationwide tour.

The judges celebrated the shift-change that has taken place in an institution that has become the world’s leading destination for people to be inspired by science.

South London Gallery

Built for and with its culturally diverse communities, the South London Gallery has been inspiring the people of Camberwell in south-east London and beyond with its world-class programme of contemporary art since its opening in 1981.

As it’s been recognised by the judges, 2019 was an important year for the gallery, being the first since it doubled in size through the opening of a new site in a converted former Fire Station. Hosting world-class exhibitions and events and delivering a free education programme, the gallery has stayed true to its aim, ‘to bring art to the people of south London’, evolving in response to the needs of artists and audiences and promoting inclusion at the heart of its mission.

Towner Eastbourne

Collecting and exhibiting contemporary art for nearly 100 years, Towner Eastbourne has become home to one of the most significant public art collections in the South of England. The gallery presents a high quality programme of historic, modern and contemporary art through a wide range of exhibitions, talks, events and creative activities.

During the last years Towner has redefined its purpose as a free and open community resource, launching a new vision to transform communities through art. 2019 marked a new phase for the gallery, which has increased its profile and secured financial sustainability while serving the needs of its diverse communities. The judges have recognised Towner Eastbourne’s commitment to promoting under-represented artists, and its status as an invaluable asset to the people of Eastbourne.

Follow all the action via Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020

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