An Interview with Aberdeen Art Gallery, Art Fund Museum of the Year Winner

For our first blog of the year we have chosen to highlight a brilliant news story of two Scottish museums being two of five winners of Art Fund’s Museum of the Year Award 2020. Well done Gairloch Museum and Aberdeen Art Gallery! We asked people in each museum to tell us about their experience of being winners which you will find in our two January Blogs.

In this blog we hear from Margaret Sweetnam, Marketing Manager at Aberdeen Archives, Gallery and Museums.

SMF Committee.

Image of three paintings and a contemporary art sculpture in the Collecting Art gallery in Aberdeen Art Gallery.
The Collecting Art galley in Aberdeen Art Gallery

We are immensely proud to have been announced as a winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020, the most prestigious museum prize in the world. The announcement was made live on BBC’s The One Show on Monday 12 October, with artist Grayson Perry on the sofa (and music from Kevin Bacon!). BBC continued the coverage on BBC Radio Four’s Front Row programme and the Jo Whiley show on BBC Radio 2. 

Watch again here.

Image reads Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020.

Aberdeen Art Gallery Winner.

In a unique edition of the prize and in recognition of the unprecedented challenges that all museums face this year, five winning museums have been named. We will equally share the £200,000 award, which is based on our achievements in 2019 – 20. 

The winning museums are:  
Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen 
Gairloch Museum, Gairloch 
Science Museum, London 
South London Gallery, London 
Towner Eastbourne, Eastbourne 

Aberdeen Art Gallery

The judges’ citation for Aberdeen Art Gallery reads: “Aberdeen Art Gallery is responsible for an exceptional collection of art and heritage, rightly celebrated as among the finest in the UK. 2019 marked the culmination of the most ambitious redevelopment project in the museum’s 135-year history, completely re-imagining the gallery so its extraordinary treasures, and the stories they tell can be celebrated, shared and better understood. The judges were impressed with the scale and ambition of this project, which increased the number of works on show from 370 to 1080, the beautifully executed restoration, and the commitment to involve the people of the city in the future of this rediscovered jewel on their doorsteps. They look forward to seeing what the next 100 years would bring.” 
Watch our winner’s film here

Aberdeen Art Gallery Centre Court

We’re sharing our award with Aberdeen’s creative community. There’s an open call out at the moment for creative practitioners with AB postcodes (artists, makers, musicians, dancers, designers, writers and performers) to submit proposals for micro-commissions to make new work that responds to the collection through explorations of identity, intersectionality and representation. Submission deadline for round 1 is 3 January 2021 and you can find out more here

We had an amazing week celebrating Art Fund Museum of the Year online with our fellow winners. Highlights of the week included launching two new Spotify playlists by multi-instrumentalist Dame Evelyn Glennie and artist Alison Watt, inspired by artworks from our collections. Listen to them here.

A hilarious #CuratorBattle hosted on Twitter by Yorkshire Museum when museums and galleries across the UK (actually, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg also joined in) brought along their Best Party Objects. Find it here.
A Cowdray Hall concert by virtuoso pianist Joseph playing Beethoven. Watch it here.

Launching the Smartify app at Aberdeen Art Gallery. Use it to explore 100s of artworks on display in the Gallery and build your own personal collection – just point and scan. Download it here.  

We opened the fantastic BP Portrait Award in October as well – it continues until 24 January so there’s still a chance to see it, travel restrictions permitting. This is the only showing of this year’s award as the exhibition planned for the National Portrait Gallery in London had to move online. You can listen to our staff talking about a selection of their favourite portraits from the exhibition, also on the Smartify app or listen here.


If you’d like to hear direct from the people who were at the heart of the redevelopment project, we recorded a panel discussion with Christine Rew, Art Gallery & Museums Manager; Helen Fothergill, Head of Collections; Thomas Hamilton from Hoskins Architects and Lyndsey Bowditch of Studioarc, our exhibition designers. Watch here: 
Part 1 What did you want from the project? 
Part 2 How did you make decisions? 
Part 3 What were your personal highlights? 
Part 4 What have you learned? 

One absolute highlight in a jam-packed Museum of the Year week were the recreations of artworks from our collections by made a group of friends from Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire during Lockdown. These really are genius. Find a selection on our instagram grid @AbdnArtMuseums or read all about them here. We’ve just opened a small display of artworks .

The image on the left shows a painting of a girl wearing a grey dress, white shawl around her shoulders, black boots, and a straw hat with a ribbon sits over her eyes. She is holding a stick and a gaggle of geese are in front of her. On the right hand side, a recreation of the painting is shown with a woman wearing a straw hat with a ribbon, white shawl, grey dress and black boots. She is holding a stick and in front of her are wo geese made out of material.
Recreation of To Pastures New by James Guthrie

The redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery really has been a once-in-a-lifetime project. Huge thanks are due to Hoskins Architects, Studioarc Design and all our colleagues across Aberdeen City Council, to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and all our supporters who made the vision a reality. We’ll be making the most of our 12 months as Art Fund Museum of the Year Winner, with lots to look forward to in 2021. Keep up to date with all news by following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @AbdnArtMuseums 

Find out more about Aberdeen Art Gallery at 

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