The University of Manchester's Whitworth named Museum of the Year 2015
02 Jul 2015
The University of Manchester's redeveloped Whitworth art gallery has been awarded the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2015. The £100,000 prize is the largest arts award in Britain and the biggest museum prize in the world.
It follows record-breaking visitor figures to the gallery since its reopening in February after a £15 million transformation to create a 21st century gallery in the park.
In 2014 the Whitworth closed its doors in order to undertake the largest renovation in its 125-year history, which doubled its former size, with a new glass wing overlooking Whitworth Park proving to be a ‘magnet’ for visitors.
Other highlights of the revamped attraction include the galleries, housing exhibitions by Cornelia Parker and Cai Guo-Qiang, open corridors, work spaces, the reopened Victoria Grand Hall and the ‘cafe in the trees’.
Since its revamp the gallery has scooped a series of awards, including the North West Building of the Year from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The latest accolade was presented to Whitworth Director Dr Maria Balshaw last night by novelist Ben Okri at a ceremony at the Tate Modern.
Dr Balshaw said that while the gallery was closed they took the Whitworth and its collections out into the city and used the time to consider more ambitious programmes.
She said: “We considered what sorts of collaborations could work at the Whitworth, between young people and our collections, say, or between artists and the academics we share a campus with. And we created an ambitious opening season of exhibitions and events that could only happen here at the Whitworth.
“That period of intensive work paid off. In the five months since our reopening, 200,000 people have enjoyed everything from Cornelia Parker’s collaboration with the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Konstantin Novoselov – alongside her monumental new commission, War Room – to hip hop in the Grand Hall, t'ai chi in the art garden and an exhibition curated by older men from a local care home. In between, we’ve hosted ten critically-acclaimed exhibitions and witnessed a ‘takeover’ of the gallery by young people.
“What we have done this year is the culmination of all that we achieved in 2014. It has been a momentous period for the gallery – and winning this award is a wonderful way to say thank you to all those who made it possible, and to those visitors, old and new, who joined us on our journey.”
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, said: “We are extremely proud of Maria and her team for this fantastic achievement which is testament to their passion for the University’s gallery. This award recognises our regional and national excellence.”
The Whitworth was chosen from a shortlist of six finalists: Dunham Massey (National Trust), Altrincham; IWM, London; The MAC, Belfast; Oxford University Museum of Natural History; and HM Tower of London.