Museum of the Year 2015 – it’s the Whitworth!
The gallery, part of the University of Manchester, has been awarded the Art Fund’s prestigious prize – and we couldn’t be happier.
On 1 July, at a prestigious ceremony at Tate Modern, the gallery was awarded the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015. It’s the largest arts award in Britain and the biggest museum prize in the world. It is awarded to the museum or gallery in the UK that is judged to have best demonstrated excellence, innovation and imagination. We reopened on 14 February, but while we were closed we did all we could to remain “open”, with pop-up projects all over the city and beyond, maintaining links to our existing audiences and building new ones. Since reopening, our new building has enabled us to undertake larger and more ambitious projects, presentations and exhibitions, and we hope we have realised our potential as a major UK cultural destination.
“During 2014, while MUMA created our new gallery, we took the Whitworth and its collections out into the city,” explains our director, Maria Balshaw. “We used the time to create more ambitious programmes. We considered what sorts of collaborations could work at the Whitworth, between young people and our collections, say, or between artists and the academics we share a campus with. And we created an ambitious opening season of exhibitions and events that could only happen here at the Whitworth.
“That period of intensive work paid off. In the five months since our reopening, 200,000 people have enjoyed everything from Cornelia Parker’s collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Konstantin Novoselov - alongside her monumental new commission, War Room - to hip hop in the Grand Hall, tai chi in the art garden and an exhibition curated by older men from a local care home. In between, we’ve hosted ten, critically acclaimed exhibitions and witnessed a ‘takeover’ of the gallery by young people.
“What we have done this year is the culmination of all that we achieved in 2014. It has been a momentous period for the gallery – and winning this award is a wonderful way to say thank you to all those who made it possible, and to those visitors, old and new, who joined us on our journey.”
The panel of judges chaired by Art Fund director, Stephen Deuchar were artist Michael Landy; design critic and author Alice Rawsthorn; books and arts editor of The Economist Fiammetta Rocco; and Axel Rüger, director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
The University of Manchester's Whitworth was chosen from a shortlist of six finalists: Dunham Massey (National Trust), Altrincham; IWM, London; The MAC, Belfast; Oxford University Museum of Natural History; and HM Tower of London.
Use the hashtag #museumoftheyear to tell the world what the Whitworth means to you.