After much deliberation, a strong longlist of ten contenders for the Art Fund Prize, which included M Shed in Bristol, the National Museum Of Scotland in Edinburgh and the famous Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, has been whittled down to four contenders.
Battling it out to be named Museum of the Year and pick up a cool £100,000 cheque will be Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, and Watts Gallery in Surrey.
The Hepworth, which was named in honour of the late Barbara Hepworth, a local sculptor, has been chosen for its contribution to the regeneration of Wakefield, while the Royal Albert Museum was picked for its important redevelopment project, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery selected for Portrait of a Nation, and Watts Gallery shortlisted for its Hope Project, a £10 million refurbishment project.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, chair of the judging panel for the Art Fund Prize, which "recognises, celebrated and stimulates originality" in museums and galleries up and down the country, said that it was no easy task in selecting the above four nominees, which he believes will set a new standard of achievement for all future contenders.
"Taken together, these four terrific institutions offer the perfect snapshot of the best of our museums and galleries – dynamic, forward‐thinking, inclusive and diverse," added Stephen Deuchar, director of the prize. "The Art Fund Prize judges have an extremely difficult decision ahead of them to select a winner."
The winner of the coveted prize, which also recognises a gallery or museum's ability to "increase public appreciation and enjoyment of all they have to offer", will be announced on June 19th at the British Museum in a live ceremony which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Front Row.
Previous winners have included the British Museum for A History of the World (2011), the Ulster Museum in Belfast (2010), Wedgwood Museum in Stoke-on-Trent (2009) and the Lightbox in Woking (2008).