The £100,000 prize was presented to the V&A by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge in a ceremony at London’s Natural History Museum. Accepting the award, V&A Director Martin Roth told the gathering of leading museum and cultural leaders that the prize money would be used to re-establish an old department axed due to budget cuts, which had been dedicated to supporting and collaborating with other museums and galleries across the UK.
Awarded annually to an outstanding UK museum, which has shown “exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement”, the Art Fund prize is the largest of its kind in the world. Judges select the winning museum or gallery according to how best it has:
Undertaken projects that will provide a lasting legacy or have a transformative effect on the museum.
Brought its collections to life for audiences – engaging, inspiring and extending public understanding.
Delivered an original audience development, learning or outreach programme.
Clearly won the support and enthusiasm of its visitors and users.
To scoop the top prize this year the V&A outshone four other finalists on the shortlist:
Bethlem Museum of the Mind (London)
Jupiter Artland (West Lothian)
York Art Gallery (Yorkshire)
Art Fund director and chairman of the judges, Stephen Deuchar, told the audience at last night’s ceremony that “the V&A experience is an unforgettable one”. Recent exhibitions such as Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which attracted a record-breaking 493,043 visitors as well The Fabric of India were all “exceptional accomplishments”.
For Roth, the award “comes at the right moment with Brexit and the other problems that we have”. He shared how the EU referendum and the ensuing uncertainty had greatly concerned him. Already, the result of the vote appears to have impacted on the Museum’s activities with potential funders contacting the V&A to ask to “put things on hold” following the vote.