Friday, 26 February 2016

Museum and Gallery Memberships - Money Saving or Money Draining?

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is an exhibition on until 20th April at the Royal Academy. It is a stunning exhibition that I caught a couple of weeks ago. Whilst the two artists mentioned are key features of the exhibition, particularly Monet it is so much more than that. There are works by a range of major names of late 19th and early 20th century art world on display.

The show features some of the documents involved in planning Monet’s garden at Giverny and so is much more than your standard exhibition of pictures. It also gives the some of the specific background to what you see.

If you can’t get to Paris to see the art there this is almost as good, particularly as there is one of three part giant murals on display.

I can highly recommend this exhibition to two distinct groups of people: those interested in art and those interested in horticulture.

The price for the exhibition is £17.60 with donation, £16 without. Whilst I can understand why these type of prices are necessary they always remind me of why, where possible, I get a year’s friends membership of somewhere and try to make the most of it if I am going to see one of the big exhibitions. And so it was I have become a friend of the Royal Academy for the year (having worked out I could just about afford it). Aside from the fact I may well (if in London again before it closes) want to see this exhibition again & with my husband I am aware I have never been to a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and it’s something I fancy doing. Then there is the clinch factor for me…Two:23 has moved from a location near the Tate Modern to a location not too far from the Royal Academy. To me when looking at these things one has to be practical, and the reality is on a day when I am going for the soul food that the worship at Two:23 provides I do like to start at a gallery in order to chill and connect with God in that way first. For me wandering round a gallery getting lost in beauty or challenged by social comment is a spiritual experience. Taking into account the likelihood of going with Karl too it works out more economical over the year.

This is not the only reason I like having a membership though. In addition of allowing you to queue jump (which was a real asset for this exhibition) there is the member’s tea room. Now, these are interesting places where the yummy mummies meet with the genteelly old and artistic third agers who seem to have something of Peter Pan about them.  My favourite was the Tate Modern when you used to be able to lounge about and sun bathe on the terrace roof (going back to just after the millennium).

The Tate Britain realised the benefit of this and in a recent renovation opened a gorgeous one replacing the rather quaint one they used to have.

I was not prepared for the Royal Academy’s version though. They don’t have a friends room they have the Keepers Cottage which is a whole building on the other side of a door. There was something of a feel about Alice in Wonderland in this one.

Then there are the magazines you get as a friend/ member. The Royal Academy (RA) one arrived today and I have to say that whilst I like it I do prefer the typeset of the Tate Magazine. There is less of a coffee table feel to the RA one compared to the Tate but then again you do feel you are reading something very grown up rather than pretentious with the RA one. I have to say I love both because they both actually contain excellent articles which make art even more accessible to the enthusiastic yet untrained visitor (or at least that’s my experience) and widen my knowledge. One thing the RA magazine did have the edge on was the book reviews within it.

Finally you get a 10% discount on most items at the shop and whilst this may not seem to make much of a difference if you add up the odd bits that comes to (through buying things like fridge magnets) together with the exhibitions it makes you realise that this really is a cost effective way to do things.

It’s not just the London Galleries which make membership worthwhile though. As I have previously mentioned one of my first purchases in Birmingham was membership of the Birmingham Museums membership scheme.

This one does not give you a magazine but it does give access to all the main exhibitions at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery together with access to a range of other heritage sites. You also get 10% off in the Edwardian Tea Rooms. Four months in and I think this membership has already paid for itself through multiple visits to the main exhibition (some alone and some with Karl), a couple of meals at the Edwardian Tea Rooms and a visit to the Jewellery Museum for the two of us recently.

Whilst the visit to the Jewellery Museum was a spur of the moment thing and we missed a tour we know we can go and do that again and that to a certain extent we are sorted for the year on local trips out especially when the warmer weather comes and some of the heritage sites closed in winter open again.

So museum and gallery memberships are they worth it or are they a bit like gym memberships where you end up paying over the odds for each visit. Well, in my experienced definitely the former. They can end up providing excellent value for money is used well and provide an excellent form of escape for people who have limited spare time they need to use well. 

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