Art Fund Prize expands to 11 candidates for "simply outstanding" longlist

By Culture24 Staff | 19 February 2010
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A photo of a woman attending to an exhibit of a polar bear

Experts at Belfast's Ulster Museum have had their efforts in the £17 million overhaul of the centre (above) rewarded by this year's Art Fund Prize

From the gleaming new £60 million Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to the 54-acre Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire and the tiny Leach Pottery in St Ives, the Art Fund Prize has announced a typically disparate variety of competitors on the longlist for the 2010 edition of the £100,000 award.

Eleven venues have been chosen from a "simply outstanding" set of nominations to succeed the Wedgewood Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, expanded from the usual ten due to the "high quality and volume" of applications received.

Coventry's impressive Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and The Ulster Museum in Belfast have been rewarded following major refurbishments, taking on projects including The Natural History Museum's Darwin Centre, Hampton Court Palace's Henry VIII show and The National Army Museum's decade-spanning Conflicts of Interests exhibition.

A photo of the dimly-lit inside of a museum showing a model of a shark in the foreground

The animal kingdom and the evolutionary process are key highlights of the Great North Museum, which opened in May in a £26 million project. Photo © Craig Connor / North News & Pictures Ltd

Eastbourne's new £8.6 million Towner Art Gallery is in the running for the flagship Prize less than a year after opening.

"This really is the icing on the cake at the end of an incredible first year for Towner," said Eastbourne Borough Council Cabinet Member for Tourism Susan Morris, who called the nomination "a wonderful privilege" for the fledgling centre.

"The prize is awarded to a museum or gallery that demonstrates originality, imagination and excellence, and we are thrilled that the judges have recognised all of these qualities in Towner."

A photograph of a man and a woman in period costume

Costumed interpreters brought history to life at Hampton Court's Heads and Hearts project. Photo © Culture24

Morris wasted no time in urging supporters to vote in the online ballot, which is expected to play a crucial role in swaying a judging panel headed by broadcaster Kirsty Young.

“My fellow Judges and I deliberated passionately and at length, and even then it was impossible to select fewer than 11 for the long list,” Young confessed.

“The quality of applications was simply outstanding. We are delighted with our selection and feel that this year’s long list demonstrates a snapshot of the UK’s incredible cultural offerings.”

A photograph of a man giving a speech at the opening of a gallery

Eastbourne's Towner was relaunched by David Dimbleby as as a new contemporary public art space. © Culture24

Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar said the candidates had shown "imagination and drive".

"They are a testament to the wealth of culture on offer right across the UK," he added.

"I for one can't wait to see how the judges' journeys unfold from now until the end of June, when the winner is announced."

Full longlist:

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, for Henry VIII: heads and hearts
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry
The Leach Pottery, St Ives
The National Army Museum, London, for Conflicts of Interest
The Natural History Museum, London, for the Darwin Centre
The Royal Institution of Great Britain, for Science in the Making
Towner, Eastbourne
The Ulster Museum, Belfast

Check out Culture24’s coverage of the polar bears and dinosaurs at the re-opened Ulster Museum, review of the swanky new Ashmolean, Tudor wedding at Hampton Court Palace, exclusive interview from the Great North Museum and picture special from the opening of the Towner Art Gallery.