William Morris wins £100,000

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William Morris wallpaper

Last night it was announced that the William Morris Gallery in north London had won the £100,000 Art Fund Prize for this year. As the only gallery devoted in the world to the Victorian craftsman, designer, writer and socialist, it plans to use the money for special exhibitions and programmes for the diverse communities it supports according to Lorna Lee from the local council in Waltham Forest.
It was that same council which cut hours in 2007 that nearly led to the closure of the museum. Only a spirited fight-back enabled the museum to stay open and then, following a £5 million refurbishment, it re-opened in 2012. Ten months later and it has picked up the valuable Art Fund Prize.
In many ways the William Morris continues the preference of the judges to give the award to galleries and museums which have had money spent on them. In 2012, Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum won after a £24 million renovation; in 2010 it was the Ulster Museum after a £17.8 million makeover and in 2009, The Wedgwood Museum won the award after a £10 million new museum was constructed. Only the British Museum in 2011 broke this mould by its imaginative exhibition telling the history of the world in 100n artefacts selected from its own collection.
The other prize of the evening – the Clore Award for Museum Learning – went to the Hepworth in Wakefield which has attracted 900,000 visitors in the two years since it has opened.

Image © William Morris Gallery

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