Museum of the Year

Applications open for Museum of the Year as Art Fund seeks to celebrate ‘heroic’ work

Image: Aberdeen Art Gallery, co-winner of Museum of the Year 2020 © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2020

Art Fund has opened applications for the 2021 instalment of its Museum of the Year prize, with the emphasis being placed on institutions able to demonstrate resilience and imagination in facing the sector’s “greatest challenge in living memory”.

As cultural attractions in Scotland have recently reopened and other UK sites edge closer to doing the same, Art Fund is encouraging any museum, gallery or historic house to enter its flagship competition as a way to celebrate the achievements of the past year.

Regardless of size or how often physical spaces have been open throughout 2020/21, the charity wants to hear from sites who feel they have given everything to continue serving audiences during the Covid crisis.

How to enter

To be considered for inclusion on this year’s shortlist applicants will be asked to answer three questions:

  • What did you do in the last year that showed imagination and determination?
  • How do you think this made a difference?
  • How will you build on this in the future?

The closing date for applications will be 1st June, with a five-museum shortlist then announced in mid-July before the winner is revealed in the autumn.

Full application information can be found here.

“The pandemic has seen museums, galleries and historic houses face their greatest challenge in living memory. The doors had to close for much of the last year, but so many museums have found imaginative ways to serve their local communities, connect with new audiences and share their collections digitally,” notes Jenny Waldman, Art Fund director, who will chair this year’s Art Fund Museum of the Year judging panel.

“It is nothing short of heroic,” she adds. “I would encourage all museums to tell us what has been achieved against the odds, so that we can reward, celebrate and share this incredible work with everyone.”

Alongside Waldman on the 2021 judging panel will be Maria Balshaw, director of Tate and chair of the National Museum Directors’ Council; Katrina Brown, director of The Common Guild and Art Fund trustee; Suhair Khan, strategic projects lead at Google; and artist Thomas J Price.

Towner, co-winner of Museum of the Year 2020 © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2020

Last year’s Museum of the Year prize was predictably impacted by the pandemic. Rather than the customary outright winner, acclaim and prize money were equally split between five winners: Aberdeen Art Gallery; Gairloch Museum; Science Museum; South London Gallery; and Towner Eastbourne.

Returning to the prior format, this year’s winner will receive £100,000 but each of the four other finalists will receive £15,000 – an increase of £5,000 on previous editions.

Museum of the Year 2021 will also see the perpetuation of Art Fund’s collaboration with the BBC, as coverage of the announcement as well as previews of shortlisted museums in the run-up are given a primetime showing.