Maria Balshaw Artsnight

Maria Balshaw

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London, Edinburgh, Bristol and York all five for the price.


Who goes to the museums of today? How do they stay relevant as sources


of inspiration with so much human culture available online? And how do


we make sure they remain accessible for all corners of society and not


just the preserve of a narrow elite. These are some of the questions that


the Art fund Museum of the Year panel have grappled with this summer


as they scrutinise some of the UK's finest museums and galleries. Every


year five are selected of incredibly different scale and type and put


through their paces to see which is worthy of being the UK's Museum of


the Year. The short list showcases the incredible breadth of museums in


Britain today. Up and down the country our institutions are proving


how dynamic this sector is. From vast Victorian temples for Art and


design to sprawling Scottish woodlands where we find the most


surprising sculpture Park. Tonight we profile each of the nominees and


find out what they have done to stand out from the crowd. Welcome to


my arts night. I'm Maria Balshaw, director of


Manchester's Whitworth Gallery and winner of last year's Museum of the


Year award. I remember my nerves were sky-high on the light of the


announcement. I felt incredibly sick. I suddenly realised the Museum


of the Year award was about the recognition of ten years worth of


work and all the staff had done such a tremendous job to transform the


Whitworth from a much loved but quite quiet and rather hidden away


institution to a gallery that is absolutely part of its local


community. And also is an international draw. Winning last


year's award was testament to all the hard work from the team around


me here and at the University of Manchester. We had been shot for 18


months for a major expansion. When we opened at the beginning of last


year there was a fivefold increase in visitor numbers as hundreds of


thousands of people came to see the new building and rediscover our


collection. Museums should be places acceptable to all, young and old


alike. They should constantly inspire and challenge us, reminding


us of the greatest achievements of ages gone by as well as the infinite


possibilities of the future. At the twilight of the Victorian age, the


Whitworth was set up to be for the perpetual gratification of the


people of Manchester. I'm really proud to stand by that mission today


and see its ambition recognised by this vital award.


As we prepare to hand over the mantle of Museum of the Year to


another institution, this year's shorlist has been announced.


Ahead of the big launch, groups from each


museum and some champion artists gathered together at the


photographer Rankin's studio for a series of group portraits.


Of course the V will win the Museum of the Year Award.


It is the greatest museum in the world.


I think we should win because we spent...


It's been an amazing project to work on and the gallery


Great. That's great.


I've never been in a space like this before.


Really quite disarming and relaxed and enjoyable.


To be asked to be part of it is really exciting.


To be able to take pictures of all the competing


It is really interesting for me to find out about the museums I


There is one entrant on this year's short list that subverts the idea of


a traditional museum more than any other. Jupiter Artland, just outside


Edinburgh, feels like a universe away from the other museums I'm


visited this week. I've been here before, twice, and each time I have,


I have got lost all over again and have to find the artworks and


rediscover them in this strange and rather wonderful landscape. I have


the map. I know that's Andy Goldsworthy's Stonehouse, and I'm


pretty sure through the trees that there is an banished Kapoor. To be


honest, I would be lying if I said I knew really where I'm standing right


now. -- Black Lives Matter. Jupiter Artland was set up in 2008.


Following a career as a sculptor, Nikki took it upon herself to


transform the grounds around their home into a shrine to contemporary


art. Each artwork at Jupiter is specially commissioned for the


grounds here. Over the years, Robert and Nicky have worked with big names


like Antony Gormley, and Cornelia Parker. Cornelia Parker use the


inspiration of Gainsborough's very famous landscape painting Mr and Mrs


Andrews, a typical English country landscape painting. In the forefront


it features a couple sitting beside a tree.


So, we have the gun depicting one of the founders


and the tree depicting the other, both leaning on each other very


It is delightful and amazing to discover it but there


That is what visitors see when they come.


They are shocked by seeing a gun in this very tranquil,


Whether it be shocking or not, it is intriguing


and exciting to see the scale imposed upon you.


I think everyone reacts with excitement.


More delights await deeper in the forest including The Light Pours Out


Of Me. This is just gorgeous, isn't it? An incredible piece. At the


moment it must be, I think, the only UK outdoor sculpture by her. It is.


We are surrounded by two forms of stone, amethyst and obsidian


volcanic glass, this severe and sharp edge that creates a boundary


level to the two pieces. Soft and gentle down here, but then sharp


harsh and severe glass at the top. It's a place of rest and peace when


you make it into the folly. What do people do when they come in? I think


people feel healed, they touch everything. Jupiter Artland is


unique in that you can get involved with the sculpture and touch it.


Amethyst has an historical function. Contemporarily it draws you in. You


want to touch it and stands next to it, and you want to feel healed by


the work. Jupiter has a life just beyond the works on-site here. One


of the most interesting projects they have launched recently is a


full-scale replication of the part in the video game Minecraft. As the


founder told me, it has brought a whole new audience to the world of


contemporary art. You let people see Jupiter before they get here. I've


been looking at your Minecraft. The digital piece for us is really


important. Our message is to try to get every child in Scotland to come


to Jupiter and we are trying to do that now with a digital outreach


programme. I think we are the first museum ever to be created virtually


on Minecraft. If you go on Minecraft you can see lots of the pieces here


and the kids adore it. They can go in wherever they are and explore and


have the Jupiter experience on their computers in their own bedrooms.


Were there any challenges, working outdoors and with this scale? Nature


is part of the curating process. It changes. You know Scotland well, we


can have four 's seasons in one day. One of the beauties of the impact of


nature is that it changes the dynamics of the park. Everything


about it, you can come back in spring or high summer and everything


will look different. Jupiter is unlike any other museum on this


year's list, but it's not the only one that challenges what we expect


from a museum. I have arrived at Bethlem Museum of the Mind. I have


never been here before because it is quite out of the way in Beckenham.


But they have had an extraordinary transformation over the last 12


months, moving to this beautiful new building and bringing collections


together in a really new way. I'm really looking forward to exploring.


The museum forms part of the Bethlem Memorial Hospital, an institution


that's been around for almost 800 years. Known as bedlam, it gained


infamy throughout the Middle Ages. But in 2016, the Mission provides


sound mental health care. I'm here to meet an artist whose work is on


show in the museum. Following a life changing cycling accident at the age


of 18, Xavier became a patient at Bethlem's sister hospital. I asked


him to show me around the gallery. You came to the hospital because of


a head injury? I had a head injury, yes, ten days in a coma. I didn't


know if I would live or die, or how I would be.


Is it a utopian city? Yeah, for me it's a utopian city, but it was


originally set out as a mind map for me to deepen my studies with various


different frameworks. So there is a very different kind of


word in here. An artist called Elyse Pack it? Yes, more dystopian, a


personal dystopia. This is a personalised table for her, with her


fear of food and eating. Everything seems impossible, you couldn't eat


from these bowls. The table might fall away. For a family, the dining


table is where you all meet. If that's impossible for her, you miss


out on a lot of interaction with your family. Incredibly powerful.


It's not just artistic works that are on show at Bethlem. Many of the


display cases have not to the institution's notorious history. But


given the sensitivities around the collection, they are displayed in a


curiouser way will stop we are in a section of the museum called Freedom


And Constraints. You do not shy away from some of the more difficult


parts of the treatment of mental illness down the centuries, but you


have made some quite careful curating choices. When we were


developing the displays, we had shackles and leg irons and all the


rest of it. They were in our collections. Thinking carefully


about how we wanted to display those, we had decisions to make. We


could have decided just to keep them in the store so nobody could see


them and be disturbed or frightened or whatever. But we felt we had a


duty to show them. Equally we did not want to display them in a Gothic


way, that would have been voyeuristic, lowest common did


nominate, bringing the crowds in to see the awful things. The things we


used to do. Yes, they are challenging objects, and we didn't


know quite how to display, but we feel, rightly or wrong way, we have


displayed them in a way that people can opt in to see them or opt out if


it's too much for them. Up until last year, the Museum of the mind


was little more than a broom closet next to the hospital. As it has


reached national status it has grappled with questions on how to


display the work in its collection. Caroline, you have undergone the


most extraordinary transformation. What has happened? It has been a


transformative experience. The museum has been on the site since


1970 that very different to this. This is a much more fitting home for


the collections, both the art collection and the archives. We have


a collection at the Whitworth which shares a similar artists. It used to


be called an outsider art collection. For us it is part of the


mainstream collection. Tell me about your feelings abound that sort of


terminology. Outsider art is not really a term we would use to


describe our collection. Some people do find it helpful. It is a bit like


the nature of a diagnosis perhaps that some people find receiving


psychiatric diagnosis helpful because it provides them with an


explanation that it perhaps provides access to services. Others feel it


is a label and unhelpful one. I think it can work both ways. This


year's Museum of the year award is a real David and Goliath story. Pitted


against a minnow like Bethlehem -- Bethlem is the Victoria and Albert


Museum. It dwarfs statistics in terms of visitor numbers. What keeps


people coming back year after year? What we have here are two


extraordinary Indian scars. This one at the front is from Kashmir. It is


hand-woven, and passion Meena. An elaborate design with the paler bit


at the top. This one is made 5000 miles away from Kashmir, in Paisley,


in Scotland. These scarves were beautiful and highly prized but they


were really expensive because they were handmade in India. The Paisley


textile industry, with its jacquard looms in the mid-19th century,


starts to copy them. A patina comes from India comes to take the name of


a small Scottish town outside of Glasgow. What we know as Paisley is


born. We have machine-made and handmade, both held together. It


demonstrates something at the heart of the fee and eight, which is that


Britain and British culture, and the objects that help define it, come


from all over the world. -- V Founded with the help of Prince


Albert, it has kept art and design at its core ever since. It has


always held a vibrant collection that specialises in the rest of the


globe comment showing treasures from all over the world. It has a modern


European gallery. I heard from museum director Martin Roth about


this huge undertaking. It has a fresh take. It is about how power


and taste came together. It is a great learning experience being


here. If you see these objects, they are incredible, unique, beautiful.


The past few years have also seen the museum embrace


These blockbuster shows, featuring the work of icons


like David Bowie and Alexander McQueen have sent visitor numbers


With 2015's McQueen Show forced to open through the night


I would love to say it was all planned, we knew it before.


To be honest, even though it is strange to say it in public,


we were quite often surprised, at least with David Bowie.


Alexander McQueen was slightly different.


For both of those exhibitions, people travel from all over


It is a great feeling of joy but at the same time


I think it is great, great progress for visitor


There was a certain sense of David and Goliath when one looks at this


year's Museum of the year list. Do think that makes life harder for you


on the short list? -- do you think? I have worked in small resilience


and huge institutions. We are extremely honoured that we art on


the short list. I think we are really proud and you talk to the


team. Everybody is smiling. No, it is the same conditions for everyone.


One of the real eye-opener is at the ranking photo shoot was just how


much the staff at each museum and boarded the values of their


institution. You see is not just bricks and mortar buildings, they


are made up of people. Nowhere was this more obvious than with the


call, young representatives of brittle's Arnolfini Gallery, who


personify the alternative lifestyle on offer in Bristol. It was opened


by a trio of under 25 's, keen to shake up the Bristol art scene. This


year marks its 40th on the harbour front. The Arnolfini has exhibited


some of brittle's biggest artists in the last 50 years. Unlike the other


museums on this year's list, it has no permanent collection. Much of the


work in the new theme is carried out by a team of volunteers. Part of the


Arnolfini commitment to young people as the recent collaboration with the


University of the West of England, whose degree show they currently


have on display. The works here showcased the best of the future of


creativity in this country. I heard more about this work when I met up


with Arnolfini director, Kate Brindley. What do you think the


judges were responding to when they short listed the Arnolfini? They


said they really liked the fact they are working at the heart with young


people, from the tiniest children that come here for story telling,


right through to the students we now have, located on our top floors. The


next creative leaders and artists of the future. You really feel the


institution works as a talent incubator. I think so. It always has


done. It has all been an important part of Arnolfini's journey and


history. It is championing young artists and working with people to


give them good opportunities to experience new ground-breaking


experimental work but also working with them in terms of opportunity.


Earlier in the day I walked around the Arnolfini art from elsewhere


exhibition, made up of works from exclusively outside the West. Are


there challenges in getting people engaged with artwork from parts of


the world they do not perhaps Nowell? I think our audiences do


expect us to be showing some challenging work. -- know well. That


is something they associate with Arnolfini. The topics in art from


elsewhere really do they'll -- deal with contemporary issues, we have


tried to explore through those routes. It is less about knowing an


artist name but more about the subjects they explore. That is


important to us. We did an exhibition with vertigo C, a major


film work which explored issues around migration, the environment,


and links to the Bristol slave trade. From speaking to our audience


were they responded so well to that. They want to explore the deep issues


in contemporary art. This gives you the opportunity to do that. In an


environment that is stimulating and not too heavy in terms of people


dipping in and out, they can explore ideas. I know people spend a lot of


time with the work. I think that is where we have been really looking at


how we can connect deeply to people with issues they are interested in.


So, now we have met most of the nominees on this year's list. How is


the winner of the prize selected? Every summer, five specially


selected judges go on a Tour of Britain, the selecting each of the


nominees. Today it is York Art Gallery's turn. The judges are a


cross-section of the art world. There are journalists and museum


experts. Part of the visitors are to receive presentations from York


stuff about why they deserve the accolade. This year, York Art


Gallery opened after an ?8 million refurbishment project. Much of the


figures of the redevelopment was in the centre of ceramic art. This


piece, Manifest 10,000 hours is the centrepiece of the display. Can you


tell me a bit about how this piece came into being? I knew of this


incredible ceramics collection which is full of my heroes from cradle is


-- play. The weight is curated, it shows generations who have passed on


knowledge. Manifest 10,000 hours is a way of looking at that skill, that


handing on of the pursuit of making. Here we have 10,000 bowls, not made


by me alone but made by sharing skill with different immunities


across the UK. Do people volunteer? They volunteered. In London, in


York, we sent out forms for people who would like to help to make this


artwork. What an extraordinary privilege which full -- privilege.


We have 10,000 hours start-up. This is what it takes to become a master.


One of the unique things about York is its collaborative relationship


with artists like Claire. In a neighbouring room, I met Mark


Herold, who is curated exhibition, the lumber room, is selected from


York's elections. You have a marvellous election of different


orders of objects like rocking horses, ceramic plates. I love that


mixing up. They are not rocking horses, they are from an 1840s


disbanded carousel. They ask Ultra all forms and have the patina of


age. -- have cultural forms. I have juxtapose that with family portraits


from the late 17th century and they have never been on display. They are


restored and brought out. It is putting surprising things together


that have a visual collection. Things that would be in a different


kind of museum, maybe in a natural History Museum. If you know anything


about my work, I love birds and animals. We have a good natural


history collection here. We have a lot of specimens were stored. I'd


put them together, almost as a sculptural Mass. York Art Gallery


has put on a great show to this year's judges today. After they left


I spoke to the chief Executive, Rhiannon King, about some of the


tougher questions they had posed to her. All of us in museums have been


facing really difficult times over the last five years. I know you have


made a decision to charge here. How did you come to that decision? We


did not want to make that decision. That is the most important thing to


say. I think there is a conversation that needs to be had nationally


about the value of civic museums. We cannot make that argument on our


own. In terms of our particular situation, we went from a budget


which included from the city council of 1.5 million. That went down to


1.2 and the next year to 600,000. That is losing more than half of our


income in two years. When we looked at the books, although actually the


city council funding is now not the major source of income, the only way


we could bridge that gap was to introduce charging for York


residents and the Art gallery. Now that we have met each of the


museums, all that remains is to see who has won this year's 's. --


prize. Good evening. I am absolutely


delighted to be here with you tonight for the Museum of the year


award in this spectacular building. It is the envelope. And the winner


is... Wrong side. The Victoria and Albert Museum.


So, that is it on this glorious sunny day. Huge congratulations to


the end a full winning Museum of the year. We will see a collection of


the wonderful objects they have. -- V Enjoy.


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