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By PatHill | Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 14:35

Officials at the The Watts Gallery near Godalming were celebrating today, after the newly refurbished gallery was named as one of those longlisted for this year's Art Fund Prize.

The gallery is one of 10 museums in contention for the £100,000 award.

The prize rewards excellence and innovation for a project completed or undertaken in the previous year.

After hearing news of the museum being longlisted a delighted Perdita Hunt, Director of Watts Gallery, proclaimed: "This is wonderful news for the hundreds of Friends, volunteers, donors, artists, craftsmen and staff who have worked so hard to rescue one of this country's hidden gems. The success of the restoration has been evidenced in us over-reaching all our visitor targets. The possibility of winning the Art Fund Prize and the £100,000 gives us renewed hope that we might complete the Watts story in Compton by securing Watts's home and studio, Limnerslease."

Watts Gallery at Down Lane, Compton near Godalming was first opened to the public on 1 April 1904 as a gallery devoted to the art of G F Watts. It is unique in being the only purpose-built art gallery to show a single professional artist's collection. In his own lifetime George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), was widely considered to be the greatest painter of the Victorian age, enjoying an unparalleled reputation.

Through the years, the gallery fell into disrepair. But the importance of the gallery was reassessed, one hundred years after it had first opened. The Trustees launched the Watts Gallery Hope Project. It sought to save the building and collection for another hundred years. Zombory-Moldovan Moore Architects added two new temporary exhibition spaces, the Showcase Gallery and the Exhibitions Gallery, as well as an outer workshop, equipped with a kiln, for a Learning Department. The Wattses had been keen to involve local communities in projects such as the Postman's Park memorial in the City of London and the Watts Chapel. Following their example, the 'Hope Wall' on the outside of Watts Gallery's Sculpture Gallery features ceramic tiles, reliefs and plaques.

"Whittling the achievements of Britain's museums over the past year down to a list of 10 was an unbelievably challenging task," said Lord Smith of Finsbury, who chaired the judging panel.

"The outstanding quality of the projects that we finally settled on, however, perfectly encapsulates the vitality and dynamism of a part of our nation's cultural life that continues to innovate, push boundaries and engage the public, even in these straitened times."

A shortlist of four museums will be announced on 14 May before the Museum of the Year is named at a ceremony at the British Museum on 19 June.

Now in its 10th year, 2011's prize was awarded to the British Museum after the success of its History of the World project which attempted to tell the story of humanity in 100 objects.



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