Two very contrasting London museums have been shortlisted as finalists competing for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2016.
Being selected as a Museum of the Year 2016 finalist caps a remarkable year for Bethlem Museum of the Mind, The Bethlem Gallery and Museum of the Mind opened in February 2015 with the aim of celebrating the lives and achievements of those living with mental ill-health. The pioneering gallery and museum is located at the world’s oldest psychiatric hospital, Bethlem Royal Hospital at Beckenham in south London.
Themed gallery spaces explore the reasons why people arrive at Bethlem, aiming to inspire discussion, debate and reflection on mental health issues which are as relevant today as they were in the past. The Museum houses significant art and historical artefacts, as well as works by current artists and hospital service users.
Among the highlights of the collections are paintings and drawings by Richard Dadd, William Kurelek, Louis Wain and Jonathan Martin, each of whom was a former Bethlem or Maudsley Hospital patient; and the oldest objects in the collection, the world-renowned and imposing statues, ‘Raving and Melancholy Madness’ by Caius Gabriel Cibber, (c.1676) – which originally stood above the gates of the 17th century ‘Bedlam’ at Moorfields – now rest either side of the art deco staircase inside the Museum entrance.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is one of the world’s leading museums of art and design. In 2015, nearly 3.9 million visitors attended V&A sites, 14.5 million visitors online and 90,000 V&A Members, the highest in the Museum’s 164-year history. Major gallery restoration projects has transformed seven prominent galleries and redisplayed and reinterpreted the world-renowned collection of 17th and 18th century art and design.
2015 also heralded one of their most popular exhibition programmes. ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ became the V&A’s best-selling exhibition, attracting a record-breaking 493,043 visitors from 87 countries. The ‘India Festival’ of exhibitions, activities and events engaged visitors in the rich and varied culture of South Asia. Their headline exhibition ‘The Fabric of India’ was the most wide-ranging exhibition of South Asian textiles ever displayed.
The shortlist of five museums are (in alphabetical order):
Arnolfini, Bristol, South West
Bethlem Museum of the Mind, Beckenham, London
Jupiter Artland, West Lothian
Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London
York Art Gallery, Yorkshire
The Art Fund awards the Museum of the Year prize annually to one outstanding museum, which, in the opinion of the judges, has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement. The prize of £100,000 is given at an awards dinner, before an invited audience of the UK’s museum and cultural leaders, which this year will take place at the Natural History Museum in London on Wednesday 6 July 2016.
The judges for Museum of the Year 2016 are: 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.
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