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Press release

Art Fund to sponsor Gulbenkian Prize


The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, is to take over sponsorship of The Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries – the largest single arts prize in the UK – from 2008.  The Prize – run by the Museum Prize Trust and currently sponsored by the UK branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – will be known as The Art Fund Prize for Museums and Galleries. Open to all registered and accredited museums and galleries, the coveted £100,000 prize is given annually in recognition of the most imaginative, innovative and popular developments of the previous year.

The Art Fund was part of the initial consortium which set up the Museum Prize in 2002, when the Museum Prize was created as a charitable company by representatives of National Heritage, the Museums Association, The Art Fund and the Campaign for Museums, who all agreed to put aside award schemes that they formerly ran and lend their support to a single new prize. The UK Branch of the Lisbon-based charity, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, agreed to be the main sponsor of the Prize for a 5 year period to allow the Prize to become well established - as the Foundation’s remit has always been to fund innovative projects in their early stages. Now that the Prize is nationally recognised and lauded, the Foundation is pleased that The Art Fund is to take over the sponsorship. 

The purpose of the Prize is to raise public awareness of the best developments in museums and galleries throughout the UK. The judging panels change annually and comprise a mix of museum and gallery experts, artists, academics and journalists, and well-known public faces. Last year’s winner was Brunel’s ss Great Britain in Bristol which has reported a 30% increase in visitor numbers since winning the Prize. Museums and galleries on this year’s short list are Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, Kew Palace, and Weston Park Museum in Sheffield. The winner of the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize for Museums and Galleries will be announced on Thursday 24 May.

Penny Cobham, Chairman of the Museum Prize Trust said: ‘We are absolutely thrilled that The Art Fund’s support will enable us to continue to build on the success of the Prize.  My fellow trustees and I are enormously grateful for the commitment of  the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation which has brought it to this point, and especially for the huge support offered over the years by the Director and staff of the UK Branch.’

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund said: ‘We are delighted to be sponsoring the Prize - it’s essential that innovative museums and galleries get the support and recognition they deserve, and the Prize is a great way of ensuring that happens. The Art Fund played a major part in setting the Prize up, and it’s a logical step for us to support it in this way.  It plays a key role in encouraging more people to experience great museum collections around the country - a mission close to The Art Fund’s heart. Just look at this year’s shortlist - they are all exciting, inventive and critically acclaimed projects - that’s what the Prize is all about.’

Paula Ridley, Director of the UK branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, said: ‘We are extremely pleased at the success of the Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries.  It has grown in status year upon year and I am delighted that the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was able to help make that happen.  I cannot think of a better successor to the Gulbenkian than The Art Fund, and look forward to seeing the Prize continue to flourish.’

For further information about this year’s Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries, please contact Liz Sich on 020 7631 2666. For further information about The Art Fund please contact Sarah Harrison or Tanera Bryden in The Art Fund press office on 0207 225 4820/22. For further information about the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation please visit

Notes to editors:

  • The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections and campaigns widely on behalf of museums and their visitors. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members
  • Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections. In 2006 it offered over £5 million to museums and galleries
  • In 2006 The Art Fund unveiled one of the most significant projects in its history – a permanent ‘Skyspace’ at Yorkshire Sculpture Park by the American artist James Turrell
  • In November 2006 The Art Fund published the findings from its groundbreaking research comparing the collecting ability of four UK national museums with their international counterparts which revealed that our major national museums have a tiny fraction of the spending power of some of those abroad. Visit
  • In January 2007 The Art Fund successfully led the public appeal to save JMW Turner’s Blue Rigi for Tate
  • In April 2007 The Art Fund launched a new £5 million scheme – ‘Art Fund International’ – aimed at developing the collections of international contemporary art in UK regional museums and galleries
  • Independent of government, The Art Fund is uniquely placed to campaign on behalf of public collections across the UK. It was at the forefront of the campaign for free admission in 2001, and the campaign to save the Macclesfield Psalter in 2005
  • Visit the charity’s website at
  • The Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries is funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, whose Headquarters are in Lisbon. For 50 years the Foundation's UK Branch has been a pioneering funder of developments in contemporary arts, education and social change in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland and a leading agency in the promotion of Portuguese culture. The Arts Programme has traditionally played an active role in encouraging artists and arts organisations, including museums, to find original and inventive ways of developing their practice.
  • Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was an Armenian, who became a British citizen and conducted his business in London before finally settling in Portugal. His distinguished private collection of art and artefacts is housed in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, which is recognised as one of the best small museums in Europe. The tradition of collecting has been continued by the Foundation and the holdings of its Modern Art Centre include an extensive collection of modern British artworks.
  • The Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries is administered by the Museum Prize, a charitable company created in 2002 by The Art Fund, the Campaign for Museums, the Museums Association, and National Heritage. Its trustees are Penelope, Viscountess Cobham (Chairman), James Bishop (National Heritage), Ylva French (Campaign for Museums), Mark Taylor (Museums Association), James Naughtie and Eleanor Updale.