When plans for a major sculpture gallery on the edge of Wakefield town centre were first mooted they were branded madness by those who questioned its viability.
Any lingering doubts have been have now been silenced as The Hepworth Wakefield was last night named Art Fund Museum of the Year.
It was second time lucky for the gallery, which had previously been shortlisted for the prestigious award in 2012 just 12 months after opening. #
However, this year it went one step further by picking up the trophy, a £100,000 cheque and the kudos, which many would argue is priceless.
Judges praised the Hepworth for its “unfailing flair” at the ceremony at the British Museum and were undoubtedly swayed by director Simon Wallis’ decision to launch the gallery’s very own award.
The Hepworth Prize for Sculpture was unveiled as part of its fifth birthday celebrations and the inaugural winner Helen Marten made headlines when she pledged to share the £30,000 prize money with her fellow nominees.
Art Fund Museum of the Year is the largest museum prize in the world and is given annually to one outstanding museum which has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement.
This year’s prize was handed out by BBC Radio 2 DJ Jo Whiley. She said: “Any one of the short-listed museums would have been a worthy winner, and the pressure was very much on in making this tough decision, but in the end we all agreed that The Hepworth Wakefield was a worthy winner.”
It is not the first time that the Wakefield district has been home to a Museum of the Year. Three years ago the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which along with the Hepworth and the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, forms part of the county’s sculpture triangle, won the prize.