In a ceremony at the Natural History Museum in London, the Victoria and Albert museum was announced as the winner of the Art Fund museum of the year 2016, by HRH the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Art Fund award – which, at £100,000 is the worlds largest museum prize and the biggest arts award in Britain – is awarded annually to museums which the judges believe have shown outstanding imagination, innovation and success in the last 12 months – though the win was a surprise for Martin Roth, the V&A’s director; as the prize in the past, has typically been awarded to smaller institutions outside London. But with the V&A’s Alexander McQueen’s exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, which attracted a record breaking 493,043 visitors from 87 countries; and due to its success, was open all through the night at one point; plus several other highly successful and original exhibitions (such as The Fabric of India) and fund raisers reuniting the four angels of Cardinal Wolsey’s tomb, the museum’s success could not be disputed.
Guests at the event were art’s elite; including artists held in the V&A’s collections, such as: Sir Antony Gormley, who the V+A owns two works by, both titled, Body and Soul; Gavin Turk whose work Portrait of Something that I’ll Never Really See is owned by the V&A; and Grayson Perry, whose vase entitled My Heroes is also in the museums collection.
Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director and chair of the judges, said: ‘The V&A experience is an unforgettable one. Its recent exhibitions from Alexander McQueen to The Fabric of India, and the opening of its new Europe 1600 – 1815 galleries, were all exceptional accomplishments – at once entertaining and challenging, rooted in contemporary scholarship, and designed to reach and affect the lives of a large and diverse national audience. It was already one of the best-loved museums in the country: this year it has indisputably become one of the best museums in the world.”
The judges for Museum of the Year 2016 were: Gus Casely-Hayford, curator and art historian; Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor; Ludmilla Jordanova, Professor of History and Visual Culture, Durham University; Cornelia Parker, artist; Stephen Deuchar (chair of the judging panel), Director, Art Fund.