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Hepworth Wakefield is the Art Fund Museum of the Year

Plus: Hobby Lobby accused of smuggling ancient Iraqi artefacts | Royal Academy to create new gallery and awards for architecture | Australia’s Mona announces major expansion plans | and Mario Merz Prize for art goes to Petrit Halilaj

6 July 2017

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Hepworth Wakefield is named Art Fund Museum of the Year | The Hepworth Wakefield is the winner of Art Fund’s Museum of the Year award 2017, it was announced at a ceremony in London last night. The West Yorkshire art gallery, named after Yorkshire-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth, opened in 2011, and in the past year has seen a 21 per cent increase in visitor numbers as well as the inauguration of a major new sculpture prize (read Apollo’s coverage of the prize here). Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director and chair of the judges for the annual £100,000 award, praised the Hepworth’s dedication to its local community, describing it as ‘the museum everyone would dream of having on their doorstep’. This year for the first time the other finalists for the prize – Tate Modern; Sir John Soane’s Museum; the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art; and the Lapworth Museum of Geology – also received £10,000 in recognition of their achievements.

Hobby Lobby accused of smuggling ancient Iraqi artefacts | A civil complaint filed yesterday by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn has accused American arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby of smuggling thousands of Iraqi antiquities into the country via Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Packages containing the artefacts were allegedly shipped to outlets owned by Hobby Lobby, marked with shipping labels falsely describing them simply as tile samples. The New York Times reports that Hobby Lobby has been forced to forfeit over 5,500 ancient clay cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals and an additional sum of $3 million.

Royal Academy to create new gallery and awards for architecture | British entrepreneur Lloyd Dorfman has donated an undisclosed seven-figure sum to London’s Royal Academy of Art, which will go towards the creation of two international prizes and a new gallery for architecture in the museum’s Burlington Gardens building, which is currently undergoing a renovation by David Chipperfield. The new Architecture Studio and lecture theatre will provide venues for temporary exhibitions as well as an ongoing programme of talks and events. The £50 million refurbishment project, first announced in 2015, is set to complete by the RA’s 250th anniversary in 2018. The two annual awards – the Royal Academy Architecture Prize for enduring contributions to architectural culture and the Royal Academy Dorfman Award for emerging talents – will also be launched next year.

Australia’s Mona announces major expansion plans | The Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart (Mona), Australia, has announced a major expansion project which will, if approved, incorporate into the current site a five-star, 172-room hotel containing a three-storey library and several outdoor art installations. Mona’s owner, the professional gambler and art collector David Walsh, revealed plans for the ‘Homo’ (HOtel MOna), including a series of ‘special experience’ rooms produced by internationally acclaimed artists, at an event for Tasmania’s tourism industry today.

Mario Merz Prize for art goes to Petrit Halilaj | The winner of the art category of the second Mario Merz Prize has been announced as Kosovar artist Petrit Halilaj. The biennial prize for art and music, promoted by the Fondazione Merz, provides its winners with the opportunity to produce solo exhibitions and music initiatives at Merz exhibition venues in Turin and Switzerland. The inaugural edition of the prize was awarded in 2015 to Egyptian artist Wael Shawky.