A vast sculpture garden in the grounds of a 17th century Jacobean manor house near Edinburgh airport is in the running to win Britain’s most lucrative art prize.
Jupiter Artland, which has more than 30 works specially commissioned by private collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson, will compete against the V&A in London for the “museum of the year” honour.
The attraction, set in 100 acres of woodland and meadows at Wilkieston, took five years to create before it was unveiled in 2009. Scottish, UK and international artists showcased there include Antony Gormley, Andy Goldsworthy, Charles Jencks, Jim Lambie, Nathan Coley, Cornelia Parker and Anish Kapoor.
As well as the growing collection of site-specific outdoor works, which are usually added to every year, Jupiter Artland also plays host to a changing programme of temporary exhibitions and installations.
It is one of five contenders for the £100,000 Art Fund Prize – the biggest museum prize in the world and the richest in the UK. The prize, which aims to recognise “exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement”, is open to UK museums and galleries of any size to enter.
Jupiter Artland would be the first Scottish winner of the award since 2004, when the title went to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, if it claims the title in July. Other contenders in recent years have included Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Ayrshire and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.
Also in the running this year are the Arnolfini contemporary arts centre on Bristol’s waterfront, York Art Gallery, which reopened last year after an £8 million refurbishment, and the new Bethlem Museum of the Mind, in Kent, which charts the history of mental healthcare and treatment.
Around 80,000 visitors, including 10,000 schoolchildren, flocked last year to Jupiter Artland, which is only open to the public from May to September. It has just 13 staff.
Nicky Wilson admitted she had initially felt Jupiter Artland was “far too small and insignificant” to stand a chance of being nominated.
She added: “We went ahead with an application and forgot all about it. We could have been knocked over with a feather when he heard we had been shortlisted. It’s so unexpected, but also really exciting.
“I think we’re the wild card of the nominees, and a bit bonkers and eccentric, but it’s really lovely to be recognised as the team here work so hard all year round.”
Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “Each one of these five museums is outstanding – not just for the collections they display, but for the people who work there, and the visitors whose lives they can change. Whether reaching audiences of thousands or millions, the best museums turn objects into culture, put audiences at the heart of their work, and engage with issues of the moment.”
Manuela Calchini, regional director of VisitScotland, said: “We’re delighted to hear that Jupiter Artland has been shortlisted. It reflects the fantastic work that’s gone in to this innovative and dynamic sculpture park. It is a shining example of Scotland’s creative and cultural sector.”