Small town gallery in Yorkshire earns crown as Britain’s Museum of Year

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A museum in the small Yorkshire town of Wakefield was celebrating Thursday after beating the Tate Modern in London to Britain’s prestigious Museum of the Year award.

Announcing the winner at the British Museum in London, the director of the Art Fund Stephen Deuchar said the Hepworth Wakefield gallery had been “a powerful force of energy from the moment it opened”.

London’s Tate Modern, which in the last year has attracted almost 6 million visitors, had also been short-listed for the top prize. Other contenders were the Lapworth Museum of Geology in Birmingham, Sir John Soane’s Museum in London and the National Heritage Center for Horseracing and Sporting Art in Suffolk.

The Hepworth Wakefield, which opened six years ago, won a prize worth 130,000 U.S. dollars, but being named Museum of the Year also projects it into the national limelight as an important arts venue.

The gallery is named after the British sculptor Dame Barbara Hepworth who was born in Wakefield and died in 1975. Her work embraced modernism and in particular modern sculpture, earning her recognition as one of the few female artists of her generation to achieve international prominence.

Last year the gallery increased its visitor numbers by 21 percent and also launched its own major new award for British sculpture.

Announcing the award, Deuchar said:”The Hepworth Wakefield has been a powerful force of energy from the moment it opened. The building has proved a perfect stage, both for its collections and a breathtaking sequence of special exhibitions. The Hepworth serves its local community and contributes to regional tourism too… It’s the museum everyone would dream of having on their doorstep.”

Simon Wallis, the gallery’s director said: “It’s a great honor that our work throughout our fifth anniversary year has been rewarded by becoming Art Fund Museum of the Year 2017. Something very special is happening in our part of Yorkshire as we’ve now got two Museums of the Year with our near neighbor Yorkshire Sculpture Park who won it in 2014.”

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