Leighton House is a finalist in the Art Fund Museum of the Year

Published: Thursday 13 July 2023

Kensington museum Leighton House last night became a finalist in the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023, as the Glaswegian art museum The Burrell Collection scooped the £120,000 prize at the ceremony at the British Museum, hosted by renowned UK artist Grayson Perry.

A must-see London museum
Owned by Kensington and Chelsea Council, Leighton House has been a museum since 1900. Situated near High Street Kensington, Leighton House is dedicated to the private collection of former Royal Academy President Frederic Leighton and offers a stunning glimpse into the inspirations, works and glamour of Victorian artist society as well as Leighton’s fascination with Arabic and Middle-Eastern art and design.

A finalist in this year’s Art Fund Museum of the Year prize – the world’s largest museum prize – and described as “the product of an aesthetic imagination run wild”, Leighton House reopened in 2022 following its ‘Hidden Gem to National Treasure’ redevelopment. This project has enabled greater community engagement through its new dedicated learning centre, improved accessibility throughout the museum’s public spaces with new step-free access, and its continuing research to locate and return Leighton’s original collection.

Lead Member for Culture, Cllr Emma Will said:

Leighton House is a deserving finalist amongst an incredible short list of museums that go above and beyond to offer the best for their audiences. The museum’s innovative programme of events, outreach and community work aims to provide access to culture, art and history for all. Following this, Leighton House will continue to share its treasures with new audiences. The Art Fund Museum of the Year award celebrates the best of UK museums. With the Natural History Museum also a finalist in this year’s awards, I am very proud that Kensington and Chelsea is home to so many amazing spaces for people to come and enjoy. Thank you to the Art Fund judges!

The transformative ‘Hidden Gem to National Treasure’ redevelopment, led by architects BDP, also introduced new exhibition spaces and a café to the building, as well as a striking 11-metre-high hand-painted mural titled “Oneness” by Iranian artist Shahrzad Ghaffari. Contemporary artists and makers including Turquoise Mountain Foundation-supported displaced Syrian artisans were commissioned to create furniture through the museum that continues Leighton's appreciation with Middle Eastern and Arabic art and design in the modern day.

Daniel Robbins, Senior Curator said:

We would like to congratulate The Burrell Collection on winning Art Fund Museum of the Year. Leighton House is thrilled to have been one of the finalists, being recognised for our transformational redevelopment project and the inspiring collaborations with artists and makers. The public reaction since reopening has been fantastic and we are determined to continue reinventing what a house museum can be. 

What is Art Fund Museum of the Year?
The Art Fund Museum of the Year prize celebrates the rich breadth of culture across the UK’s 2,500 museums to shortlist just five. This year, the shortlist included The Burrell Collection (Glasgow), The MAC (Belfast), Natural History Museum (also in Kensington and Chelsea, London), and Scapa Flow Museum (Orkney). 

This year’s shortlist all demonstrated transformational impact, redeveloping their offers with diverse and inspiring stories at their heart and responding to contemporary challenges.

Each finalist will receive £15,000. Together with £120,000 received by the winners Leighton House, the total prize money for Art Fund Museum of the Year is £180,000, specially increased for 2023 and beyond to mark the 120 years of Art Fund supporting museums.

The 2023 judging panel, chaired by Art Fund director Jenny Waldman, includes: Larry Achiampong, artist; Mary Beard, historian and broadcaster; Abadesi Osunsade, Art Fund Trustee, author and owner of Hustle Crew, and Laura Pye, Director, National Museums Liverpool.

What to see in Kensington and Chelsea
Leighton House is one of Kensington and Chelsea’s must-visit spots, and the Council is working to bring more amazing spaces across the borough to a wider audience. This summer, the Kensington and Chelsea Festival returns, with performances taking place across the borough's theatres, venues and parks and many more exciting things planned across the borough.

Read more about Art Fund or about architect studio BDP’s redevelopment of Leighton House.