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Four museums shortlisted in running to win £100,000 Art Fund Prize for "museum of the year"
Barbara Hepworth, Curved Forms (Pavan), 1956, plaster, Photography: Mark Heathcote, © Bowness, Hepworth Estate.

LONDON.- The shortlist for the tenth Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries has been announced today.

Including one national institution and one local museum, one radical new building and a painstakingly restored one, the shortlist reveals the diversity, eclecticism and quality of the UK’s museums.
The four shortlisted museums are:

· Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire

Designed by acclaimed architect David Chipperfield, Hepworth Wakefield opened in May 2011 following a £35 million development. Presenting the collection of the old Wakefield Art Gallery alongside a unique collection of works by Barbara Hepworth and an innovative programme of temporary contemporary art exhibitions, the museum attracted more than 100,000 visitors in the first five months.

· Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter, Devon

The Museum for the city of Exeter, RAMM reopened in December 2011 following the first major redevelopment in its 140-year history. With collections ranging from fine art to archaeology, botany to geology, the museum attracted over 50,000 visitors within its first month of opening.

· Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

The world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery reopened in December 2011 following a £17.6 million transformation, the first refurbishment in the museum’s 120-year history. The ‘Portrait of a Nation’ project involved not only the thorough renovation of this Victorian Gothic building but a comprehensive rehang and reinterpretation of its world-class collection.

· Watts Gallery, near Guildford, Surrey

This purpose-built museum devoted to the work of eminent Victorian painter George Frederic Watts (1817–1904) is widely regarded as one of the finest Arts and Crafts building in the country. The museum has been shortlisted following the success of its £10 million restoration by architects ZMMA, and the introduction of storage and restoration facilities, an education and outreach programme fit for the twenty-first century.

The shortlist was chosen by an independent panel of judges chaired by Lord Smith of Finsbury, former Labour MP and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The judging panel includes Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE, theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster; Charlotte Higgins, Guardian journalist and author; Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, author and broadcaster; Sir Mark Jones, Master at St Cross College, Oxford and former V&A director; Rick Mather, architect; and Lisa Milroy, artist and Head of Graduate Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL.

Lord Smith of Finsbury said: “The museums on this shortlist are truly outstanding institutions, very varied in scale and theme, but sharing a remarkable commitment to connecting with their visitors and telling powerful stories through objects and images. Whittling ten really strong nominees down to a list of four was a supremely difficult process, and I’ve no doubt that deciding on a ‘museum of the year’ from this list will prove equally tough.”

Penelope, Viscountess Cobham, Chairman of The Museum Prize Trust said: “In this tenth year of the Prize for museums it seems particularly fitting to have a shortlist of such truly exceptional quality. In these challenging times it is more important than ever to acknowledge the achievements of such original and vibrant organizations, museums which ask questions about history, culture and the world around us.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund said: “With the Olympics and the Cultural Olympiad almost upon us, Britain has an unrivalled opportunity to show to the world the very best its culture has to offer. Taken together, these four terrific institutions offer the perfect snapshot of the best of our museums and galleries – dynamic, forward-thinking, inclusive and diverse. The Art Fund Prize judges have an extremely difficult decision ahead of them to select a winner.”

The winner will be announced live on BBC Radio 4 Front Row and at an event at The British Museum on 19 June 2012.

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