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Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up opens at the V&A in June © Nickolas Muray Photo Archives

London museum and gallery memberships worth signing up for

Forget admission fees and bag a membership to one of London's art institutions

By Martin Coomer and Rosemary Waugh

From fleshy Freuds at Tate Britain to a photographic celebration of Michael Jackson, 2018 is a bumper year for gallery-going Londoners. But whilst there's a lot to get excited about, getting your art fix can be an expensive business. Fear not. To help save your pennies, we road-tested the schemes that offer you more culture, more often, for less. Take your pick below and get inspiration from our top ten art exhibitions.

Art gallery membership: Tate

1. Tate

The price from £86 
The perks Peace of mind that you won’t have to pay (or queue) to get into exhibitions at Tates Britain and Modern comes as standard for members. And if you're looking to introduce your kids to the world of culture, up to six children get in free with any membership. You’ll also get to hang out in the great members' rooms, perhaps flicking through your complimentary copy of Tate Etc. magazine before heading to the gallery shops to enjoy a 10% discount. For 2018, you'll be wanting to pop along to The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame and Tragedy, Joan Jonas and All Too Human: Bacon, A Century of Painting Life

London art memberships: National Art Fund

2. Art Fund National Art Pass

The price from £67 (£34 for under-26s)
The perks The daddy of passes gets you free entry to more than 240 museums, galleries and historic houses nationwide, 50 percent off exhibitions at major spaces such as the Tate, British Museum and the National Gallery, a guidebook that lists all participating venues, plus the Fund’s Art Quarterly magazine. Additional cultural feel-good factor comes with the awareness that your money is added to the Art Fund’s purchasing pot and used to buy works for worthy collections.


3. Royal Academy of Arts

The price from £125 (£60 16-25 year-olds)
The perks Becoming a Friend of the Royal Academy of Arts looks pricier than other schemes but basic RA memberships allow you to bring a family guest with you to every show (most entry-level memberships are strictly for singles). You’ll also enjoy all-day access to the Keeper’s House café, restaurant and cocktail bar, a dedicated programme of events and the much-respected RA Magazine. Top perk, though, has to be extended opening hours and the Friends’ Previews of the RA's blockbuster exhibitions that for 2018, their 250th anniversary year, include Tacita Dean: Landscape, Oceana and Klimt/Schiele

London art membership: V&A

4. V&A

The price from £64, £35 under-26s
The perks If you consume culture with kids in tow, this is a great card for you. Unlimited entry to V&A shows with up to four under-18s in the family, as well as previews, tours and events. You'll also be kept up-to-date about all things V&A via your V&A Magazine subscription and the Quarterly Newsletter. Fashionistas are well catered for in 2018 with Fashioned from Nature and Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up both opening. Also make sure you check out Ocean Liners: Speed and Style and The Future Starts Here

London art membership: Barbican

5. Barbican

The price from £59
The perks As well as free access to all Barbican exhibitions, this cross-cultural cash-saving card gives discounts on cinema and performing arts tickets and priority booking, plus access to the Members’ Lounge for you and a guest. You can also take advantage of special offers in the restaurants, bars and shops. 2018 sees the Barbican host The Art of Change season. The programme is overflowing with artsy good stuff, with headlines events including Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde. They've also got some brilliant film seasons planned, like Returning the Colonialist Gaze, and Artists and Activists.  

London art membership: southbank centre

6. Southbank Centre

The price from £69
The perks Being able to sink a few with a mate while soaking up views over the Thames from the sixth floor members’ bar is one of the benefits of the Southbank Centre’s card. You’ll also receive discounts in the restaurants, cafés and shops, priority booking and access to a programme of previews, talks, social events and behind-the-scenes tours. 2018 is a big year for the Southbank Centre with reopenings for the spruced-up Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. Their dance and theatre programme features several brilliantly bonkers experimental companies (such as Forced Entertainment), whilst the classical music programme remains a showcase for world-class performers.

London art membership: design museum

8. Design Museum

The price from £75 (students from £45)
The perks Since relocating to Kensington in 2016, the Design Museum has continued to host a fantastic range of exhibitions attractive to everyone from tech-heads to fashion students. Join as a member and you'll get free entry to all exhibitions, invites to Members Lates, and discounts when booking talks and spending money in the shop. Best of all, you can bring up to three under-15s to all temporary exhibitions for free.


9. ICA

The price from £40 (£10, concessions)
The perks From £5 cinema tickets on Tuesdays to discounted tickets for selected ICA programmes, there are plenty of reasons to sign up for a membership to the ICA. Make use of your Free Day Membership and enjoy exhibitions, films, and other cutting-edge cultural events.

External BM shot.JPG
© The Trustees of the British Museum

10. British Museum

The price from £64 (£44 under-26s)
The perks Apart from unlimited entry to the big shows and discounts in the shops, restaurants and cafés, the main draw must be the members’ evenings, where you get to wander the British Museum without being elbowed by back-packed tourists. Or you can take advantage of the free wifi, camp out for the day in the members’ room overlooking the Great Court and kid yourself you’ve got your very own office in Bloomsbury.


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