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Who won the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020?

12 October 2020

In this incredibly challenging year for the museum sector, the Art Fund Museum of the Year is back with a twist. Instead of selecting one outstanding institution for the honour, they're acknowledging five brilliant museums across the UK who will share the £200,000 prize fund.

Aberdeen Art Gallery

Aberdeen Art Gallery © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2020

Aberdeen Art Gallery is home to 21 gallery spaces within a handsome granite building in the centre of the north-east city.

Being Art Fund Museum of the Year winner is the best ‘welcome back’ present imaginable
Christine Rew, Aberdeen Art Gallery

The prize judges were impressed by the the gallery's recent redevelopment project which "increased the number of works on show from 370 to 1080, the beautifully executed restoration, and the commitment to involve the people of the city in the future of this rediscovered jewel on their doorstep."

Christine Rew, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Manager, is delighted that their hard work has been recognised.

She says: "Covid-19 abruptly interrupted the fantastic momentum built since the revitalised Art Gallery re-opened. We welcomed over 100,000 visitors in 100 days and then suddenly, we were closed again. Being Art Fund Museum of the Year winner is the best ‘welcome back’ present imaginable."

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Gairloch Museum

Gairloch Museum © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2020

While Gairloch Museum can trace its roots back to 1977, it only moved to its current home - a former nuclear bunker in the north west Highlands with wonderful views across Loch Gairloch - last year.

This brings our small, independent museum to the national stage
Karen Buchanan, Gairloch Museum

This eight-year, multi-million pound redevelopment project has been praised by the judges for transforming "a village eyesore into an important visitor attraction... [creating] a buzzing new community hub, and produced a sustainable cultural landmark for generations of visitors to enjoy."

Karen Buchanan, Curator of Gairloch Museum, believes the award will help take them to another level.

She says: "The recognition that comes with this award brings our small, independent museum to the national stage... We rely on tourism to our small community and expect our Art Fund Museum of the Year status to boost visitor numbers."

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The Science Museum

Science Museum © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2020

The Science Museum can be found in London’s iconic museum corner, receiving millions of visitors each year. Through its collection of over 300,000 objects they tell the story of Western science, technology and medicine.

Our museums are at the heart of national cultural life and provide solace, inspiration and joy to so many
Sir Ian Blatchford, Science Museum Group

The judges "recognised the shift-change that had taken place [over the last decade] in this well-known and much respected institution, not only in its spaces, but also in its relationship with its visitors and local communities. The museum has become the world's leading destination for people to be excited, inspired and delighted by science."

Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, says he is honoured they have been selected.

He says: "The last decade has seen a radical transformation of the Science Museum... so, it means a great deal to have this achievement acknowledged by this magnificent prize. Our museums are at the heart of national cultural life and, particularly during this time of uncertainty, provide solace, inspiration and joy to so many."

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South London Gallery

South London Gallery © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2020

The South London Gallery, located between Peckham and Camberwell, has a mission bring art to the people of the local area and has a collection of more than 500 artworks relating to South London.

We hope this endorsement will entice people from across the UK and beyond to visit
Margot Heller, South London Gallery

The judges were impressed by the gallery’s integrity, creativity and inspiring leadership, "delivering an exciting programme of exhibitions and events, and a highly regarded free education programme, [as well as] doubling in size through the opening of a neighbouring site in an elegantly converted former Fire Station."

Margot Heller, Director of South London Gallery, sees this as a great stepping stone.

She says: "We hope this endorsement will entice people from across the UK and beyond to visit the SLG. We have a great reputation among those who know us, but there is huge potential to grow."

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Towner Eastbourne

Towner Eastbourne © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2020

Towner Eastbourne, founded in 1923 with the mission of being ‘an art gallery for the people’, is home to collections of both modern British and international contemporary art.

In the current unprecedented circumstances, we are proud to have continued to deliver a wide-ranging programme
Joe Hill, Towner Eastbourne

The judges admired its "genuine commitment to promoting under-represented artists in its programme, and its newly cemented status as an invaluable asset to Eastbourne."

Joe Hill, Director of Towner Eastbourne, believes the gallery has developed into a community hub for art and culture at the heart of the town.

He says: "In the current unprecedented circumstances, we are proud to have continued to deliver a wide-ranging programme... [and we will be] using this award to ensure we develop a celebration for the people of Sussex and a programme for all ages taking place across our town."

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The judges of the Arts Fund Museum of the Year 2020 were: 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). The museums were selected for their achievements in 2019 – 20.

#MuseumPassion is a week-long celebration across the BBC's TV, Digital and Radio outlets.

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