This London Gallery Has Been Crowned Museum Of The Year

By Olivia Emily

1 week ago

Just over one year after it reopened


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

Young V&A Crowned Museum Of The Year 2024

View across the Town Square at Young V&A

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

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

‘We’re thrilled to win Art Fund Museum of the Year 2024 and to have been part of a shortlist of such brilliant museums changing lives across the UK,’ Charman said on the win. ‘This win is a clarion call for the vital role of creativity, culture and play in children’s lives when so many opportunities have been taken away through the cost-of-living crisis and ongoing under-investment in creative education nationally.’

Young V&A reopened just over one year ago on 1 July 2023 following a £13 million overhaul, transforming Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood into a trail-blazing celebration of young creativity. Home to almost 2,000 toys, characters, objects and artworks on display from around the world and across history, Young V&A was created for and by children, from early years to early teens. Art Fund’s judges commended the venue’s engagement with its local community, and its powerful message of empowerment for young creators. Not only this, but Young V&A’s beautifully maintained listed architectural features are accompanied by totally accessible routes and facilities (including Tower Hamlets’ first and only accredited Changing Places 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 Opens Young V&A

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 creative experiences in early years has on young people’s futures – and that’s why we’ll be investing the prize money in founding a creative network and programme for early years providers along the Thames Estuary, where a higher proportion of children live in low-income households than the England average.’

‘Young V&A is a truly inspirational museum,’ praised Jenny Waldman, director of Art Fund and chair of the judges for Art Fund Museum of the Year. ‘With a brief from its young co-designers to create “the world’s most joyful museum”, Young V&A has achieved that and more. It has radically reimagined the museum with and for young people, creating a museum experience that’s active, empowering and dynamic, centred on learning through play. Young V&A has established a deep engagement with its local community and, at the same time, it has become an international beacon for what a children’s museum can be. I give 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 Young V&A Do With The Prize?

With £120,000 in its back pocket, Young V&A has committed to ‘[building] on its deeply embedded local community programme, working with some of the country’s most deprived children. From the Isle of Dogs to Southend on Sea and beyond, Young V&A will work in partnership with caregivers, artists, museum professionals and early years educators to expand this programme, and create new cultural and playful learning experiences, using its collection to unleash the power of creativity and its impact on young 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,’ Vick Hope commented. ‘The museum truly places young people centre stage, encouraging them to play, design and get 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 to imagine their future; a space that will cement museums as places they belong and feel welcome as they grow up, regardless of their background. In such a short time the Young V&A’s global impact has been really incredible, demonstrating the potential of what museums can be for children around the world – and I can’t recommend it enough for a visit.’

National Portrait Gallery, Museum of the Year finalist

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

Which Museums Were Shortlisted?

Young V&A surpassed four UK collections to be named Art Fund’s Museum of the Year. 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 Art Fund and Museum of the Year at artfund.org