The Design Museum in London has been named the European Museum of the Year for 2018. Announced at an awards ceremony in Warsaw, Poland; the Design Museum was one of 40 finalists including the Science Museum in London, National Gallery of Ireland and the Helsinki City Museum to win the prestigious award.
The European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA) was founded in 1977, by Kenneth Hudson and Richard Hoggart, under the auspices of the Council of Europe, with the aim of recognising excellence and innovation in the European museum sector. Each year, an international judging panel visits up to 50 museums to select a winner that demonstrates best museum practice in innovation and accessibility. Previous winners of the award include the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Founded by Sir Terence Conran, the Design Museum opened in 1989 in a former banana ripening warehouse on Shad Thames, south east London before moving to Kensington High Street in 2016. The move tripled the museum’s size to 10,000m² and enabled it to open, for the first time, a free permanent display of its collection. The move to Kensington also enabled the museum to improve its learning programmes with a 500m² world-class campus offering hands-on courses for families, young people and adults alike.
The European Museum of the Year panel commented:
‘This inspiring, socially-aware museum includes the visitor in a friendly dialogue and taps into the creative history of design, which it celebrates and documents with ingenuity, historical accuracy and humour. It serves as a platform for the promotion of good design world-wide and sets up an important democratic and multi-layered intercultural dialogue, with a significant social impact in the community.’
The announcement coincides with a series of major milestones for the museum. Earlier this year, the Design Museum welcomed its one millionth visitor to its new home in Kensington and in its opening year it attracted 780,000 visitors between November 2016 to November 2017. Ferrari: Under the Skin became the most attended exhibition in the museum’s history with over 100,000 visitors and on 10 May 2018 Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier opened to the public, an exhibition curated in collaboration with the late designer.
Alice Black, co-director of the Design Museum said:
‘Being named European Museum of the Year 2018 is a remarkable achievement for the Design Museum, its staff, trustees and supporters. Created nearly 30 years ago by Sir Terence Conran, the museum shows the power of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship in design. Having reopened in November 2016 in Kensington, west London, the museum has already welcomed over 1 million visitors to its exhibitions, learning programmes, events, and talks. To be recognised by its European peers as the best museum in 2018 is wonderful accolade, and celebrates our common European future.’
Lord Peter Mandelson, chairman of the Design Museum Trustees added:
‘Winning this prestigious award is wonderful news for the museum and all its staff, visitors and collaborators. This announcement is a huge testament to the mission of the museum and thoroughly deserved following the opening of such a stunning new building and the successful range of exhibitions and programmes mounted in the last year. Congratulations to the museum’s Directors, Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black, and of course to Sir Terence Conran whose vision made the Design Museum possible. This award is also a tribute to the thousands of members and hundreds of volunteers who support the work of the Design Museum. The museum receives less than 2% of its funding from government programmes and it is therefore the dedicated support of patrons, sponsors and foundations that has created this vital and important resource of design knowledge and inspiration for local, national and international visitors.’
Since opening, the Design Museum has hosted critically acclaimed exhibitions including Fear and Love; Imagine Moscow: Architecture, Propaganda, Revolution; California: Designing Freedom; Breathing Colour by Hella Jongerius; Beazley Designs of the Year 2017; Ferrari: Under the Skin; Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18 and Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier as well as a number of successful pop-up displays.
The Design Museum houses two temporary exhibition galleries, the permanent display Designer Maker User in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, the Helene and Johannes Huth Gallery, the 210-seat Bakala Auditorium, the Chumsri and Luqman Lounge, the Weston Mezzanine, the Swarovski Foundation Centre for Learning, the Parabola restaurant and the museum’s collection of more than 2,500 objects in a dedicated climate controlled collection storage and conservation facility.
Since relocating, the Design Museum has also won a number of accolades including a RIBA London Award, AJ Retrofit Award, a commendation in the NLA Awards, the Structural Transformation award by the Institute of Structural Engineers and was awarded the Best New Museum and Leading Cultural Destination of 2017 as part of the global LCD Awards.