London museum and gallery membership schemes
Are you resolved to seeing more London art exhibitions in 2009? Time Out road-tests London museum and gallery membership schemes, including the Tate, the ICA, the V
V&A (from £56)
We know about the ace caff (with the museum attached), but the new members’ room provides a stylish retreat from the hubbub. Membership might seem pricey but the V&A boasts a jam-packed calendar of members-only events that includes numerous guided tours (internal and external), coach trips, talks and even a visit to Sir Anthony Caro’s sculpture studio.
(7942 2271; www.vam.ac.uk/members)
Best overall valueThe Tate’s is a 50-year-old scheme to match its hefty half-ton price, but it includes free entry to all four museums as well as to the great members’ rooms at the Modern and Britain branches. In addition to the trusty magazine, there’s also a new look for the starter pack, this year designed by scratchy humourist David Shrigley, with a tote bag (when bought at the gallery), badges, stickers and a Memory Box in which to keep your own witty squiggles and asinine asides on art. (7887 8888; www.tate.org.uk/members)
Royal Academy (£37-£76)
Friends of the RA enjoy unlimited exhibition entry (with an adult guest and up to four family kids), use of two separate rooms in which to relax and eat lunch, as well as the much respected quarterly RA Magazine. Top perk, however, must be the Friends’ previews, allowing advance queue-free access to blockbusters that this year include a major Anish Kapoor retrospective. (7300 5664; www.royalacademy.org.uk/friends)
Now that entry is free to all before 11pm, membership may seem a bit pointless, but when all seems futile, who better to turn to than irreverent cartoonists Modern Toss, who have produced the limited-edition gift pack? Their perfectly pitched collaboration includes a special Oyster Card holder with eight new ICA-themed Toss cartoons. Signing up also gives discounts on films, performances and talks, as well as 10 per cent off books, food and drink, discounts at the BFI plus advance info and invites to preview screenings and events.
(7930 0493; www.ica.org.uk/ membership)
The Art Fund (£42)
Joining the Art Fund offers free entrance to more than 200 museums, galleries and historic houses nationwide,with 50 per cent off exhibitions at major spaces, a handy guide book that lists all participating venues, a pack of Art Fund playing cards, plus informative museum-based mag Art Quarterly. Additional cultural feel-good factor comes with the awareness that all fees are added to the Art Fund’s purchasing pot and used to buy works for worthy collections. There’s comfort, too, in the knowledge that fellow Art Fund members include national treasures of a different nature – among them David Attenborough, Joanna Lumley and Michael Palin.
(0870 848 2003; www.artfund.org)
British Museum (£20-£45)
Apart from unlimited entry to the big shows and three magazines a year, the main draw seems to be the quarterly open evenings. Not only do you get exclusive talks and after-hours opening times, but you also get the opportunity to wander the galleries without half of London’s back-packed tourists snapping away in front of you. For those with kids, the ‘Young Friends’ option will get you a spot on the much-coveted museum ‘Sleepover’ as well as a goody bag.
(7323 8195; www.britishmuseum.org)
Design Museum (from £25)
There’s not much in the way of bells and whistles with this package, and at the £1,000 benefactor level it’s more about giving money to the museum than saving it, but unlimited entry (with a guest) will appeal to design buffs who like to visit frequently and take advantage of 10 per cent discount in the shop and café.
(7940 8763; www.designmuseum.org/membership)
Barbican (from £20)
It covers the lot: the cinema, the theatre, the concerts, but only gives you £2 off the exhibitions at the art gallery and 20 per cent off gigs, plays and dance events. Great for polymaths (or perhaps the culturally confused), but the dated-looking glorified discount cards won’t wow your friends – unless they like bright orange.
(0845 1216823; barbican.org.uk/membership)
Southbank Centre (£45)
Full membership provides unlimited access to Hayward exhibitions, invites to exclusive events, a members’ bar for post-exhibition comment over a pint and fee-free priority booking. Join up with a mate and it’s only £75 for two. Priority Information Membership (at £25) is a bit of a let down as your quids-off only covers booking fees, but obsessive Warhol fans who want to spend all day, every day immersed in the wigged-wonder’s current show may want to take advantage of the special £20 Warhol Membership (ends Jan 17 2009).
(0871 663 2512; southbankcentre.co.uk/membership)
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