Colchester's Firstsite art gallery has won the 2021 Art Fund Museum of the Year award for its work during the pandemic and engagement with the local community.
Colchester's Firstsite art gallery has won the Art Fund Museum of the Year award for 2021. The small contemporary art organisation which has been in operation for only 10 years, was awarded the £100,000 prize for its work during the pandemic and engagement with the local community
The £100,000 prize was presented to the Essex organisation's director Sally Shaw at a ceremony at London's Science Museum on Tuesday.
Art Fund director Jenny Waldman said it "exceeded all our expectations". She added that Firstsite was "an outstanding example of innovation and integrity. At their core is powerful, engaged contemporary art, housed in a gallery that gives space for everyone, from artists to NHS staff to local families and refugee groups. Here is a small organization thinking big and caring for their local community. Here is excellence in Essex."
The organization’s engagement with the local community and its location is reflected in its programming, as seen in recent exhibitions such Art for Life, curated with the help of key workers, and Michael Landy’s Welcome to Essex, which explored the sometimes-maligned county’s reputation.
Other shortlisted museums were the Centre for Contemporary Art Derry Londonderry, Experience Barnsley, the Thackray Museum of Medicine in Leeds, and Timespan in Helmsdale. Each of these organisations will receive £15,000. Along with Waldman, the judging panel included the Tate director Maria Balshaw, the broadcaster Edith Bowman, the Common Guild director Katrina Brown, the strategic projects lead at Google Suhair Khan, and the artist Thomas J. Price.
Last year the prize was shared equally among the five nominated museums, while in 2019 the award was given to St Fagans National Museum of History in Cardiff. Previous winners include Tate St Ives, the Hepworth Wakefield, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
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