It’s official: two London museums are the best in the UK

London’s museum roster is one of the city’s biggest flexes. From powerhouses like the V&A or the Natural History Museum to all the weird and wonderfully niche little collections dotted around the place this city has countless exceptional museums – and better yet, so many of them are free

We at Time Out have our own picks for the best museums in the city, but choosing just one to call the best seems like a bit of an impossible task. Yet Art Fund, the UK’s national charity for art, has taken on that task. The organisation has announced its shortlist for the Museum Of The Year award 2024. And, excitingly, two of the five shortlisted institutions are in London. 

This year’s edition will recognise impressive projects hosted by museums between autumn 2022 and winter 2023. The Young V&A and the National Portrait Gallery are the two London museums to make the shortlist.

The National Portrait Gallery reopened last June after a huge refurbishment and massively increased the number of portraits on display. There has also been an effort to better represent the diversity of the UK’s history with the new curation: 48 percent of portraits in the post-1900 galleries are of women (up from 35 percent) and 11 percent of the works on display are of ethnic minorities (up from 3 percent). 

East London’s Young V&A opened back in July. The building underwent a massive £13 million restoration, and has been transformed into a critically-acclaimed interactive space centred around children. There are three permanent galleries called Play, Imagine and Design as well as more than 2,000 toys, characters and artworks. 

Both London museums sound like worthy contenders to us, but it’s not just a prestigious title that’ll be awarded to the winning museum. There’s some prize money up for grabs, too: £120,000 for the crowned winner, and £15,000 for each of the shortlisted entries (you can read more about those here).

Plenty of London’s art galleries have won the acclaimed award in the past. The William Morris Gallery was crowned winner in 2013, the V&A won in 2016, and the Horniman Museum triumphed in 2022.

The winner for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2024 will be announced on Wednesday July 10 in at ceremony at the National Gallery.

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