York Art Gallery in the running for Museum of the Year: These pix and video show why

The revamped gallery. Photograph: Giles Rocholl
29 Apr 2016 @ 12.11 pm
| News

York Art Gallery’s fantastic transformation has paid off: it’s been shortlisted for this year’s Art Fund Museum Of The Year award, alongside prestigious museums such as the Victoria and Albert.

Since 2008 the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, has awarded the annual £100,000 prize to a museum which, in the judges’ opinion, has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement.

This year York Art Gallery have battled it out to become one of only five finalists.

The other finalists

Arnolfini, Bristol

Bethlem Museum of the Mind, Beckenham, Kent

Jupiter Artland, West Lothian

Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London

Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director, said:

Each one of these five museums is outstanding – not just for the collections they display, but for the people who work there, and the visitors whose lives they can change.

Whether reaching audiences of thousands or millions, the best museums turn objects into culture, put audiences at the heart of their work, and engage with issues of the moment. This shortlist shows why and how UK museums lead the world.

York Art Gallery "has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement". Photograph: Polly Braden
Exhibits for all the family. Photograph: Polly Braden

Built in 1879, York Art Gallery’s collection spans 600 years, but the Museum of the Year nomination has been attributed to its recent £8 million redevelopment.

When the gallery reopened in August 2015 had gained 60% more exhibition space, including a new mezzanine floor within the beautiful original Victorian roof void, which had been hidden for more than 50 years.

A new balcony and entrance at the rear of the Gallery leads directly to a two-acre green space, which is now opened up to the public for the first time and features a new Artists’ Garden and Edible Wood.

All areas of the gallery are now accessible to all, and owners the York Museums Trust says the transformation and new displays have been very well received by visitors.

Locally the reopening caused controversy after the trust introduced an admission charge of £7.50 for York visitors who had previously enjoyed free entry.

There's plenty to discover. Photograph: Polly Braden
There’s plenty to discover. Photograph: Polly Braden
Photograph: Polly Braden
The Centre of Ceramic Art, at the heart of the refurbished Gallery. Photograph: Polly Braden

Reyahn King, chief executive of York Museums Trust, said:

We are thrilled that York Art Gallery has been shortlisted for The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2016.

We believe the new and improved spaces are a fitting home to our nationally important collections and enable us to give the public a fresh approach to the display and understanding of ceramics.

We can achieve our ambitions to host internationally important exhibitions and extend the artistic offer to our gardens behind. With learning spaces, better facilities and a great welcome we think the gallery is a friendly, inspiring and fun place for our visitors.

We are extremely proud to be shortlisted and we hope that it will help us build on our growing reputation as one of the best art galleries in the country.

Michael Woodward Photograph: Polly Braden
Mike Woodward, chief operating officer, and Reyahn King, chief executive. Photograph: Polly Braden
The Gallery's beautiful exterior. Photograph: Giles Rocholl
The Gallery’s beautiful exterior. Photograph: Giles Rocholl

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 6 July 2016, to an invited audience of the UK’s museum and cultural leaders at the Natural History Museum in London.

In partnership with the BBC, the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2016 will be celebrated across the network in a series of broadcasts and online.

Photograph: Giles Rocholl
York Art Gallery “has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement”. Photograph: Giles Rocholl