"Extraordinary" Wedgwood Museum scoops £100,000 Art Fund Prize

By Ed Sexton | 19 June 2009
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a crowd of people on stage

(Above) Staff and Trustees of the Wedgwood Museum celebrate winning The Art Fund Prize with (far right) Lady Cobham and Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund.

The Wedgwood Museum has bagged the £100,000 Art Fund Prize after being unanimously chosen by judges and winning a People's Choice poll.

Chair of The Art Fund Prize judging panel, David Puttnam, announced the result at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London last night (June 18 2009).

"This Museum is extraordinary for so many reasons and we were all but unanimous in our decision," he said. "The Wedgwood Museum brilliantly highlights the marriage of art, design, manufacturing and commerce and it is a marriage that resonates more today than at possibly any time in the intervening years."

Created to celebrate the iconic name in British ceramics, the new
£10 million museum is housed on the historic manufacturing site of Josiah Wedgwood and Sons and is owned and run by a charitable trust.

Gratefully accepting the prize, Wedgwood Museum Trust Chairman George Stonier said it was difficult to convey just how much it meant to the Museum and the people of Stoke-on-Trent.

Culture24 caught up with the winners and judges to find out their reactions to the result.

a crowd shot of three people smiling

Wedgwood Museum director Gaye Blake-Roberts (right) and staff react to the news. Picture © Richard Moss / Culture24

"It's just a wonderful result for us – we had obviously hoped we would win, but never in our wildest dreams did we think it would happen," said Wedgwood Museum director Gaye Blake-Roberts. "All the staff are absolutely ecstatic and we can't wait to get on the phone to everyone back at base to let them know the news."

She said the Museum was hoping to use the money to "move the Museum forward." "We hope to add a new gallery where we can house temporary exhibitions," added Blake-Roberts. "It is the most marvellous news for the staff at Wedgwood, for Stoke-on-Trent, for the industry and for the people who have made pots at Wedgwood for so many years."

Judges praised the Wedgwood for using its internationally renowned collection to take visitors on a 250-year journey through British creative, social and manufacturing history.

a photograph of a man in a dress and make up

Potter and Art Fund Prize judge Grayson Perry was a happy man with the result. Picture © Richard Moss / Culture24

"We had a criteria and the Wedgwood ticked every box; their collection is remarkable and so is the way that they use it – they made the decision pretty easy for us," added Lord Puttnam.

"The factory itself has just been saved so this is great news for Wedgwood. Places like Stoke-on-Trent need every scrap of help they can get in the current climate."

a photo of a bearded man speaking from a podium

Lord Puttnam said the Wedgwood "ticked every box." Picture © Richard Moss / Culture24

Fellow judge, Grayson Perry said, "I am a ceramicist myself and I love the Museum. I'm very pleased that the Wedgwood won, It's great news for ceramics and for Wedgwood, who have been through a lot of trouble this year.

"I agree with David that this result has sent out a message in the recession that Britain can be a great manufacturer, and I have the same high hope that we will get back to that. The current weightlessness of industry leaves me feeling queasy. I hope there is a return to manufacturing – even if it's handmaking dresses for transvestites."

a photo of two men on a stage

Wedgwood Museum Trust Chairman George Stonier on stage with Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw. Picture © Richard Moss / Culture24

As well as a large ceramics collection, visitors to the Wedgwood can see a range of manuscripts, documentation, factory equipment, original models and fine art related to this world-renowned ceramics company.

"The Wedgwood Museum magnificently celebrates the extraordinary achievement of Britain's industrial history," said Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund.

"It is a richly deserving winner of this Prize, and its victory could not have come at a better time for the area after all the uncertainty there has been over the future of the factory which still operates alongside the museum."

The museum beat three other shortlisted venues – Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham and Ruthin Craft Centre in North Wales.

For more information visit The Art Fund Prize website.

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