Aberdeen Art Gallery wins 2020 Museum of the Year Award

Aberdeen Art Gallery has been announced as a winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020, the most prestigious museum prize in the world. In a unique edition of the prize and in recognition of the unprecedented challenges that all museums face this year, five winning museums have been named. They will equally share the £200,000 award, a 40% rise over previous years.

The winning museums are: Aberdeen Art Gallery (Aberdeen, Scotland); Gairloch Museum (Gairloch, Scotland); Science Museum (London, England); South London Gallery (London, England); Towner Eastbourne (Eastbourne, England). They are awarded based on their achievements in 2019 – 20.

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson, said: “Covid-19 abruptly halted the fantastic momentum that had built since Aberdeen Art Gallery re-opened in November 2019 following the redevelopment. We welcomed over 100,000 visitors in under 100 days and then suddenly, we were closed again. Being a Museum of the Year winner is the best ‘welcome back’ present imaginable.

“The redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery has been a transformational project not just for the building, but for also for the city. In November last year we experienced the powerful affection with which visitors reconnected with the building and their favourite artworks, like old friends – transformed, but reassuringly familiar - and felt the surge of civic pride. And now in these days of Covid restrictions, we are grateful that our Gallery is open for inspiration – a place for everyone to enjoy.”

Today’s announcement kicks off a week-long celebration featuring live-streamed talks, events and digital activity, giving an inspiring opportunity to get involved with museums all over the country.

The judges, Jago Cooper (Curator of the Americas, The British Museum), Dame Liz Forgan (Trustee, Art Fund), Ryan Gander (artist), Melanie Keen (Director, The Wellcome Collection) and Jenny Waldman (Director, Art Fund), reflected:

Aberdeen Art Gallery is responsible for an exceptional collection of art and heritage, rightly celebrated as among the finest in the UK. 2019 marked the culmination of the most ambitious redevelopment project in the museum’s 135 year history, completely re-imagining the gallery so its extraordinary treasures, and the stories they tell can be celebrated, shared and better understood. The judges were impressed with the scale and ambition of this project, which increased the number of works on show from 370 to 1080, the beautifully executed restoration, and the commitment to involve the people of the city in the future of this rediscovered jewel on their doorstep. They looked forward to seeing what the next 100-years would bring.

Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, said: “Congratulations to Aberdeen Art Gallery. The five Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 winners are exceptional examples of museums offering inspiration, reflection and joy in the heart of communities. The UK’s museums - admired worldwide and vital locally - were thriving before Covid-19. Now they can help rebuild our communities and confidence as we emerge from the virus.”

Christine Rew, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Manager, will reflect on the museum’s achievements as part of a panel discussion at 11am on Tuesday 13 October, featuring all the winners of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 and Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman. Produced in association with The Art Newspaper and led by art critic and podcast host Ben Luke, with registration via https://art-fund.arttickets.org.uk/

As part of the week-long celebration, Aberdeen Art Gallery will unveil Spotify playlists inspired by the Gallery’s outstanding collection, present its first ever live stream concert with a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata, Opus 110, by virtuoso pianist Joseph Long, and share staff reflections on portraits on display in the BP Portrait Award 2020 which opened at Aberdeen Art Gallery on Saturday 10 October. You can get involved at www.aagm.co.uk and by following Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums on social media @AbdnArtMuseums and https://www.artfund.org/museum-of-the-year/ #musuemoftheyear

Other highlights of the week include Outlander star Sam Heughan reading a beloved folktale from the western Scottish Highlands, pertinent to Gairloch Museum’s collection and local histories. Towner Eastbourne will hold a daily ‘digital mindfulness retreat’ tapping into the beauty of the museum’s location and collection. South London Gallery will reveal a new poem inspired by Walter Crane’s wooden panel at the Gallery stating, ‘The source of art is in the life of a people’. The Science Museum will release a series of ‘Secret Science Club’ films on Instagram in collaboration with influencer Anna B that will explore the amazing experiments you can see in the museum’s Wonderlab: The Equinox Gallery.