The Burrell Collection in Glasgow wins the Art Fund Museum of the Year award


The Burrell Collection in Glasgow was announced as the winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023 this evening at a ceremony held at the British Museum, London.

Situated in Pollok Country Park, in the outskirts of Glasgow, the museum houses the more than 9,000-strong collection of art and antiquities amassed by the Scottish shipping magnate William Burrell and his wife Constance Burrell.

Managed by the charity Glasgow Life, the museum was officially reopened by King Charles in March 2022 after a six-year, £68m refurbishment and redisplay. The museum attracted over 500,000 visitors in the year after its reopening, contributing more than £20m to the local economy in Glasgow.

Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections for Glasgow Life, was presented with the £120,000 prize—the largest museum prize in the world—by the artist Sir Grayson Perry.

The Burrell Collection was one of five finalists. The other shortlisted museums are: Leighton House (London), The MAC (Belfast), Natural History Museum (London) and Scapa Flow Museum (Orkney). Each finalist will receive £15,000.

Burrell, who died in 1958, aged 96, was a voracious and diverse collector. When he first began the Burrell collection, he focused initially on 19th-century French art, but quickly became interested in historical and global artefacts. The collection today spans antiquities ranging from Chinese porcelain to Medieval tapestries, military armour and stained glass.

Burrell donated his collection to the city of Glasgow in 1944, at which point it numbered more than 6,000 objects, but he continued to add to it throughout the rest of his life until the collection swelled to more than 9,000 pieces.

In a statement shared with The Art Newspaper, Mary Beard, the art historian and broadcaster who was one of the judges, says: “The Burrell Collection is a treasure trove of objects to discover, with everything from one of the UK’s most important collections of Chinese art, to medieval tapestries and stained glass, and works of art by Rembrandt, Degas and more.”

The gallery closed in 2016 for a modernisation driven by the London-based architectural firm John McAslan + Partners, based on designs which retained the original building and its footprint. But the redisplay of the works presented a challenge. Writing in The Art Newspaper in March 2022, Joanna Moorhead said: “Collections do not come much more steeped in white, male, wealth-driven narrative than this one.”

Throughout the refurbishment, the museum’s staff were therefore tasked with reshaping the Burrell collection for the 21st century, adding immersive displays and digital technology, while paying tribute to its namesake’s original vision.

Jenny Waldman, the director of Art Fund, pays homage to how the refurbishment was “achieved with a strong shared purpose and with the involvement of local community groups in Glasgow.”

“The Burrell Collection is extraordinary,” Waldman says. “A world-class collection displayed in an inspirational building, in harmony with the surrounding landscape of Pollok Country Park.”


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