Here’s the Shortlist for UK Museum of the Year 2018: ‘Each Expanding the Idea of What a Museum Can Be’

Nominees for the GBP£100,000 Art Fund prize, the world’s largest museum award, include Ferens Art Gallery, Glasgow Women’s Library and Tate St Ives

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund; photograph: Marc Atkins

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund; photograph: Marc Atkins

Tate St Ives. Courtesy: Art Fund; photograph: Marc Atkins

Fundraising charity Art Fund has announced nominees for its Museum of the Year 2018 award: the world’s biggest museum award. The five UK museums are Brooklands Museum near Weybridge, Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, Glasgow Women’s Library, London’s Postal Museum and Tate St Ives. The Art Fund prize is an annual award, which goes to an institution displaying ‘exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement’. The 2017 prize went to the Hepworth Wakefield.

Tate St Ives reopened last October after a major GBP£20 million refurbishment and extension. A show by British artist Rebecca Warren inaugurated the new gallery designed by Jamie Fobert Architects. Talking to frieze last year about his creation, Fobert said: ‘You feel the presence of this diffuse light. It’s about volume and presence, not streams of sunlight’.

Glasgow Women’s Library is the only accredited museum devoted to women’s history in the country. The GWL has pushed to commission artists to respond to its exhibits, most recently including a project by Linder, shown as part of Glasgow International Festival. Titled ‘Bower of Bliss’, Linder engaged with library pieces including 1970s editions of Sappho, ‘The only lesbian magazine in Europe’, and texts on persecution of ‘witches’. The resulting film ‘is a collage of haunting punk glamour and feminist history’, writes Chris Sharratt.

Linder, ‘Bower of Bliss’, 2018, flag, installation view, Glasgow Women's Library. Courtesy: the artist and Glasgow Women's Library; photography by Suzanne Heffron

Linder, ‘Bower of Bliss’, 2018, flag, installation view, Glasgow Women's Library. Courtesy: the artist and Glasgow Women's Library; photography by Suzanne Heffron

Linder, ‘Bower of Bliss’, 2018, flag, installation view, Glasgow Women's Library. Courtesy: the artist and Glasgow Women's Library; photography by Suzanne Heffron

Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, recently underwent a GBP£5.2 million refurbishment, and was a key part of Hull’s 2017 UK City of Culture celebrations. It hosted last year’s Turner prize, won by Lubaina Himid. Dan Fox, on the jury for last year’s Turner, discusses the importance of holding that exhibition here: ‘a city geographically and socially distant from London’s museums and gallery scene.’

Other nominees are London’s Postal Museum, which includes a now defunct underground postal mail train. It opened last summer. Director Simon Opie commented: ‘to be so new and fresh and to be shortlisted is a very welcome and unexpected surprise.’ And Brooklands Museum near Weybridge in Surrey rounds off the shortlist: home to the first purpose-built motor circuit and major aircraft manufacturing site in Europe, it is dedicated to aviation design history and motor racing history.

Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar commented: ‘Each of our five finalists has tapped into very current concerns: the progress of Glasgow Women’s Library exemplifies the quickening march towards equality; the Postal Museum addresses our first social network; Brooklands is inspiring the next generation of engineers; and the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull and Tate St Ives are galvanising their communities around visual culture. Each one expands the very idea of what a museum can be.’

The winning institution will receive GBP£100,000, to be unveiled at an awards ceremony at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum on 5 July 2018. Other nominees will receive GBP£10,000 each. The jury this year, chaired by Deuchar, consisted of BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones, Science Museum Group director Ian Blatchford, artist Melanie Manchot and consultant Monisha Shah.

A recent report commissioned by Art Fund revealed that public funding to UK museums had decreased by 13% over the last decade – it warned that this serious lack of resources meant that UK institutions had been left in a perilous position. Don’t miss our article on arts funding, the future of museums and the dangers of efficiency.

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