Longlist Of Contenders For Britain's Biggest Arts Prize Announced

By David Prudames | 16 January 2003
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Shows Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind.

Left: the imposing Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind is among the candidates. Photo: Len Grant. © Len Grant.

The judges of the inaugural £100,000 Gulbenkian Prize have announced a longlist of 12 museum and gallery projects.

From the huge and vastly expensive, to the not so huge and volunteer-driven ventures, the long list takes in the full range of museum and gallery experiences offered around the country.

Right: the winner of a RIBA Award, runner-up in the Stirling Prize and now longlisted for the Gulbenkian Prize - the Gridshell at the Weald and Downland Museum.

At the top end of the scale projects such as the awesome Imperial War Museum North and the Darwin Centre show the sheer scale of museum development in the last year. While at the other, a community history scheme in Rotherham and cast iron sculpture workshops at Ironbridge show the significance of heritage and history to the locality.

"The judges were looking for original and imaginative projects of a kind likely to enhance the public appreciation of museums and galleries," explained Bamber Gascoigne, broadcaster, writer and chair of the judges.

Shows Ironbridge in Shropshire.

Left: volunteers at Ironbridge Open Air Museum have used the historical structure to inspire cast iron workshops.

"We have been delighted by the wide range evident in the longlist. Indeed, the cost of the largest project was about 5800 times that of the smallest. It is an essential feature of the prize that we are to bear in mind the size of the museum or gallery and the resources available. We are now looking forward to our visits around the country."

From the improvement of visitor facilities and preservation of Captain's Scott's ship, Discovery in Dundee, to the redevelopment of Brighton Museum and Art Gallery on the south coast, the selected contenders fully represent Britain's regions.

Shows the interior stairwell at the reopened Manchester Art Gallery.

Right: the reopened Manchester Art Gallery is among the contenders.

Cornwall, the poorest county in England, is represented by the Family Falmouth Project at Falmouth Art Gallery, in which three generations from three families brought up in the town were invited to produce artwork in response to life there.

Working alongside professional artists the families selected their favourite works from local galleries and produced their own to go on display as part of the project. The result was so popular over 16,000 people came to see it including 900 educational visits.

Shows the spirit collection at the Darwin Centre.

Left: the Darwin Centre takes the public behind the scenes at the Natural History Museum. © the Natural History Museum.

There is also a place on the list for Hackney Museum, which reopened its doors in March 2002. The judges placed a great emphasis on the museum's dedication to and communication with its surrounding multi-cultural community.

"I think it is because our subject matter is quite innovative," said Acting Director Laura Williams, explaining how Hackney is one of the only museums in the country to deal exclusively with the subject of immigration. "It seemed entirely appropriate to this part of London to make that our focus," she added.

Shows artwork produced by local children at Hackney Museum.

Right: the reopened Hackney Museum not only celebrates, but is a mouthpiece for the community. © 24 Hour Museum.

As if to emphasise the significance of such prizes, Laura Williams told 24 Hour Museum what winning would mean to her institution.

"It is about three times our annual budget," she explained, "so I think we would be looking at doing quite an experimental project involving local people in decision making in terms of what we display, what we collect and how we should define heritage."

Shows a First World War British army biscuit from the Imperial War Museum North.

Left: a First World War British army biscuit - Imperial War Museum North takes visitors closer to the physical experience of war. Photo: Phil Sayer. © Phil Sayer.

The judging panel represents a wide range of artistic and academic skills and experience. Included are Dr Simon Thurley, Director of English Heritage, Joanna Lumley, actress and writer, artist Anish Kapoor and Professor Kathy Sykes, holder of the Collier Chair in the Public Understanding of Science and Technology at the University of Bristol.

Shortlisting is expected in March, when surviving candidates will be asked to put forward a proposal for spending the money. The overall winner will be announced on May 15.

The long list in full:

  • Banbury Museum and Tooley's Boatyard Project, Oxfordshire
  • Brighton Museum and Art Gallery Redevelopment, Sussex
  • Cast Iron Sculpture Workshops, The Ironbridge Open Air Museum, Shropshire
  • Collections, Communities and Memories Community Project, Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham
  • Darwin Centre Phase One, Natural History Museum, London
  • Downland Gridshell, Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, Sussex
  • Family Falmouth Temporary Exhibition, Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall
  • Imperial War Museum North, Manchester
  • Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
  • National Centre for Citizenship, The Galleries of Justice, Nottingham
  • New Hackney Museum, London
  • RRS Discovery Renewal Programme, Discovery Point, Dundee.
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