Each year, the Art Fund hosts its Museum of the Year ceremony. Last year, the winner was the Victoria and Albert Museum. Home to some of the most beautiful exhibitions London has to offer, the Victoria and Albert has long collaborated with the Art Fund to help build its collection.

The Art Fund will be hosting its annual Museum of the Year celebration on 5 July 2017. This year, the ceremony will be held at the British Museum in London, and there are some very strong contenders for the award. The winner will be awarded £100,000, and all other finalists are recognized for their fantastic achievements towards furthering the arts with prizes of £10,000 each.

In 2016, the Art Fund named the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) museum of the year. Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund and chair of the judges, said: “It was already one of the best-loved museums in the country: this year it has indisputably become one of the best museums in the world.”

Much excitement is building on the coronation of the Museum of the Year 2017, but what is it that made the V&A so special, and such a worthy winner in 2016?

The V&A museum currently houses over two and a half million works of art. It was founded in 1852, utilizing money made available through the Great Exhibition. The V&A is part of what is now known as the ‘Albertopolis’, which is the Victorian cultural quarter in Kensington, where the Royal Albert Hall and the Natural History Museum can also be found. It showcases some of the best exhibitions London has to offer.

Sir Henry Cole, the original director of the V&A described it as ‘a refuge for destitute collections’, something that still shines through today. Sir Cole’s hope was that people would once again begin to appreciate cultures and the arts. In his words, the V&A aimed to ‘furnish a powerful antidote to the gin palace’. Since 1852, the museum has gone from strength to strength. Today, five millennia worth of art can be seen here, from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

The V&A houses art of all different types. This includes paintings (in excess of 10,000 different ones), ironwork, sculptures, photographs, glassware, textiles, ceramics, and furniture. It is clear that Sir Cole’s aim of creating a refuge still rings true today, with Sir Roy Strong even describing the V&A as ‘an extremely capacious handbag’.

A representative for the Art Fund says: “The V&A experience is an unforgettable one. Its recent exhibitions, from Alexander McQueen to The Fabric of India, and the opening of its new Europe 1600-1815 galleries, were all exceptional accomplishments – at once entertaining and challenging, rooted in contemporary scholarship, and designed to reach and affect the lives of a large and diverse national audience.”

The Art Fund continues to work with the V&A museum to further its goals. To date, there are over 100 different works sponsored by the Art Fund within its halls, which includes Gainsborough, Turner, and Constable paintings, William Morris tapestries, and Edmund de Wall ceramics. Not just that, but it is also thanks to the Art Fund that the V&A is now able to share The Three Graces, the neoclassical marble sculpture by Antonio Canova, which depicts the daughters of the Greek god Zeus. The Getty Museum acquired this in 1994, to the great horror of many art enthusiasts. Thanks to the Art Fund, it is now shared between the V&A and the National Galleries of Scotland, so that it is not lost to the United Kingdom.

Additionally, the V&A is home to The Wolsey Angels, which was commissioned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, chief advisor to Henry VIII, was acquired by the Art Fund in 2015. The work of art was due to adorn the tomb of the cardinal, but Henry VIII dismissed him and appropriated all his belongings, including the statutes. For centuries, it was not known what had happened to them. In 1994, one was rediscovered, and a further one was found in 2008. Both statues are now together in the V&A collection, thanks to the Art Fund.

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