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This London gallery has been crowned Museum of the Year

This London gallery has been crowned Museum of the Year

Last night, just a year after reopening following a major refurbishment, London’s Young V&A was crowned Museum of the Year by the Art Fund. Here’s exactly what that means.

Young V&A crowned 2024 Museum of the Year

The Town Square at the Young V&A. Image by Picture Plane © Victoria and Albert Museum London

The Art Fund’s Museum of the Year award is the world’s biggest museum prize. At a ceremony at the National Gallery last night (10 July), the £120,000 endowment was presented to Helen Charman, Director of the Young V&A in Bethnal Green, London, by presenter and judge Vick Hope.

“We are thrilled to win the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2024 and to be part of such a brilliant list of museums that are changing lives across the UK,” said Charman of the win. “This win is a clear call to action for the vital role of creativity, culture and play in children’s lives when so many opportunities have been taken away by the cost of living crisis and continued underinvestment in creative education nationally.”

The Young V&A reopened just over a year ago on 1 July 2023, following a £13 million refurbishment, transforming Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood into a pioneering celebration of young creativity. Home to almost 2,000 toys, characters, objects and artworks on display from around the world and throughout history, the Young V&A was created for and by children, from their earliest years through to their early teens. Art Fund judges praised the venue’s engagement with its local community and its powerful message of empowerment for young creators. Not only that, but the Young V&A’s beautifully maintained, listed architectural features are accompanied by fully accessible routes and facilities (including Tower Hamlets’ first and only Changing Places accredited toilet), plus a Core Learning Centre, Creative Studios, dynamic exhibition space and three innovative permanent galleries exploring Play, Imagine and Design.

HRH The Princess of Wales opened the Young V&A in July 2023. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Charman added: “We recognise the positive impact that creative early years experiences have on young people’s futures – which is why we will invest the prize money into establishing a creative network and programme for early years providers across the Thames Estuary, where a higher proportion of children live in low-income homes than the English average.”

‘Young V&A is a truly inspiring museum,’ praised Jenny Waldman, Director of the Art Fund and Chair of the Art Fund Museum of the Year judges. ‘With a brief from its young co-designers to create “the world’s most joyful museum”, Young V&A has achieved this and more. It has radically reimagined the museum with and for young people, creating a museum experience that is active, empowering and dynamic, centred on learning through play. Young V&A has forged deep engagement with its local community while at the same time becoming an international beacon of what a children’s museum can be. I offer my warmest congratulations to the fantastic team at Young V&A on being crowned Art Fund Museum of the Year 2024. You truly are the world’s most joyful museum and will inspire young people now and for generations to come.’

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

What will the young V&A do with the prize?

With £120,000 in its pocket, the Young V&A has committed to ‘[building]its deeply rooted local community programme, working with some of the country’s most disadvantaged children. From the Isle of Dogs to Southend on Sea and beyond, the Young V&A will work in partnership with carers, artists, museum professionals and early years educators to expand this programme and create new cultural and playful learning experiences, using its collection to unlock the power of creativity and its impact on young people’s lives.’

‘The Young V&A is such a special and unique place, offering an experience for children (and their adults) like no other out there,’ commented Vick Hope. ‘The museum really puts young people at centre stage, encouraging them to play, design and be creative through a fascinating collection of objects and artworks. I was inspired by the museum’s vision to become a space for the next generation to feel empowered and imagine their future; a space that will cement museums as places where they belong and feel welcome as they grow up, no matter their background. In such a short space of time, the global impact of the Young V&A has been truly incredible, demonstrating the potential of what museums can be for children around the world – and I can’t recommend it highly enough for a visit.’

National Portrait Gallery, finalist for Museum of the Year, 2024. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery. © David Parry

Which museums were pre-selected?

The young V&A beat four UK collections to be named Museum of the Year by the Art Fund. They are:

  • Craven Museum (Skipton, North Yorkshire)
  • Dundee Contemporary Arts (Dundee)
  • Manchester Museum (Manchester)
  • National Portrait Gallery (London)

Each finalist will receive £15,000.

Chaired by Art Fund director Jenny Waldman, the 2024 judging panel included Anupam Ganguli (finance director, Historic Royal Palaces), Vick Hope (broadcaster), Tania Kovats (artist) and Sir John Leighton (former director general, National Galleries of Scotland). The judges visited each of the finalists to inform their decision-making.

DISCOVER

Learn more about the Art Fund and Museum of the Year at artfund.org