Wedgwood Museum wins $160,000-Art Fund Prize

Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:10pm EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The Wedgwood Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, which celebrates the famous name in British ceramics, has won the 100,000-pound ($160,000) Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries.

The panel of judges, which included the Turner Prize-winning, cross-dressing potter Grayson Perry, praised the museum for using its collection to take visitors on a "250-year tour of British social, design and industrial history."

"This Museum is extraordinary for so many reasons and we were all but unanimous in our decision," said David Puttnam, the chair of judges, at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London.

"The Wedgwood Museum brilliantly highlights the marriage of art, design, manufacturing and commerce; a marriage that resonates more today than at possibly any time in the intervening years.

"In every respect it fully meets our criteria of what a 21st century museum should aspire to be." The award caps a tumultuous few months for the Wedgwood name.

The company, founded 250 years ago by Josiah Wedgwood, one of the fathers of the industrial revolution, merged with Waterford of Ireland, but had to call in the receivers in January. The following month, U.S. private equity group KPS Capital Partners said it would buy some of the group's assets.

Andrew Macdonald, acting director of The Art Fund, said the prize could prove a morale booster at a difficult time for the company and the region.

"It is a richly deserving winner of this prize, and its victory could not have come at a better time for the area, after all the uncertainty there has been over the future of the factory which still operates alongside the museum."

This year the public was also a judge in the first ever People's Choice poll. More than 27,000 people voted, also choosing The Wedgwood Museum as their winner.

Three other museums were shortlisted for the Art Fund Prize: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, for its Center of New Enlightenment; Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham and Ruthin Craft Center in North Wales.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)