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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Transformed gallery in running for prestigious Art Fund award

York Art Gallery has been shortlisted for a major museum of the year award. Judges have compiled a five-strong list for the prestigious Art Fund event.

The York gallery's shortlisting, which follows an £8 million transformation, sees it competing with London's Victoria and Albert Museum, Bristol's Arnolfini, Kent's Bethlem Museum of the Mind and West Lothian's Jupiter Artland.

The Centre of Ceramic Art is among the main features
of the transformed York Art Gallery. Photo by Peter Heaton.

The Art Fund makes the award each year to the museum that 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.

York Museums Trust chief executive Reyahn King said: "To be one of only five finalists is in itself fantastic recognition of the transformation that has taken place at the gallery.

“We believe the new and improved spaces are a fitting home to our nationally important collections and enable us to give the public a fresh approach to the display and understanding of ceramics.

"We can achieve our ambitions to host internationally important exhibitions and extend the artistic offer to our gardens behind. With learning spaces, better facilities and a great welcome we think the gallery is a friendly, inspiring and fun place for our visitors.

“We are extremely proud to be shortlisted and we hope that it will help us build on our growing reputation as one of the best art galleries in the country.’

The judges include 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, director, Art Fund.

Stephen Deuchar said: "Each one of these five museums is outstanding not just for the collections they display, but for the people who work there, and the visitors whose lives they can change.  

"Whether reaching audiences of thousands or millions, the best museums turn objects into culture, put audiences at the heart of their work, and engage with issues of the moment.   This shortlist shows why and how UK museums lead the world."

The Art Fund museum of the year is being organised in partnership with the BBC and will be celebrated across the network in a series of broadcasts and online.

Staff at York Art Gallery say that the transformation and opening displays have been popular for visitors and received widespread media coverage.

Built in 1879, the York attraction is home to a nationally designated collection spanning 600 years. Last year, it reopened after an £8 million development giving it 60 per cent more exhibition space, including three state of the art galleries allowing significant artworks and exhibitions to be brought to the city.

In the heart of the gallery, the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) has been established to provide space for the most representative collection of British studio ceramics. The collection is shown on a new mezzanine floor within the original Victorian roof void, which had previously been hidden for more than 50 years.

A new, larger education space lends itself to an extended learning programme, while the new project gallery shows work evolved from partnerships with the local community.

A new balcony and entrance at the rear of the gallery leads directly to  a two acre green space which was  previously hidden, which is now opened up to the public for the first time, and features a  new artists’ garden and edible wood.

The capital project has also meant that all areas of the gallery are now accessible to all.

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