Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pages of the Sea - the WW1 Beach Portraits

I only found out about Pages of the Sea Project at the weekend. Little did I realise when I was walking right behind Danny Boyle 10 days ago (he lives near me) that I'd be writing about him this week.

The Pages of the Sea - Beach Portraits Page
on 11 November 2018, communities will gather on beaches across the UK to say goodbye and thank you, to the millions of men and women who left their shores during the war, many never to return.
Pages of the Sea was the largest simultaneous coastal arts project ever to take place in the UK.

It's been a major public art project curated by Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle for the First World War centenary - with the aim that people all around the UK could get involved with a more informal commemoration of the centenary of the end of the war and a final salute to the people who gave their lives.  The aim of the project was to be open and democratic in a space which is open to anyone.

Watch this three minute video to see what happened across the UK on Sunday 11th November - the centenary of the end of the First World War.



THE WOUND IN TIME

It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

Carol Ann Duffy, 2018.

Where the beaches were
Pages of the Sea was  commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and was supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Big Lottery Fund, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The Sand portraits designed by Sand in your Eye. (You can see examples of their sand drawings on their website)

You can also see what happened on Sunday in the Facebook Live Page It lasts just over an hour.

Click here to watch our Facebook Live of the day so far, including Danny Boyle’s introduction to the project, Fiona Shaw reading Carol Ann Duffy’s poem The Wound In Time, Greg Jenner exploring the history of Folkestone, historian Kenneth Cromie at Murlough beach and footage from Folkestone, Colwyn Bay, Murlough, Blackpool, West Sands.

You can also read about the portraits of people who contributed to the First World War on www.livesofthefirstworldwar.org

The website for the Lives of the First World War Project run by the Imperial War Museum

Monday, November 12, 2018

What is a semi-professional artist?

There are two ways of looking at what a semi-professional is.
  • Either they are somebody who is receiving payment for an activity but NOT as a full-time occupation NOR relying entirely on it for a living
  • Or they are somebody who is spending a lot of time on an activity and aspiring to reach the standards normally associated with a professional - and money doesn't come into it
Or maybe both in varying degrees?

I've often commented in my reviews of art challenge programmes on the television about the blurring of the lines between "professionals" and "amateurs". Examples include:
  • people who have worked as trained and professional illustrators or designers or architects in the past now declaring themselves as amateur artists
  • art students who have just graduated declaring themselves to be professional artists - because that's what they are trying to be
  • people who have an art degree and a full time working role in relation to art - but only paint in what they consider to be an amateur capacity(i.e. not trying to make it their full-time job)
So I thought it might be interesting to discuss.....

What is a semi professional artist?


Crop of a Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

The best way of coming at a definition is probably by trying to define the boundary either side.

The professional artist


Back in 2011 I wrote How do you define a "professional artist"? It generated a lot of interesting comments

This is how I defined a professional artist
My definition of a professional artist is purely pragmatic - it's an artist who makes their living mainly or entirely through their art.

So for example, that might mean a professional artist was somebody who was a practising artist who sold their art in galleries, also taught art in a school or college or workshops and maybe did some illustration work as a sideline.
In every other occupation, professional is defined entirely by occupational standards e.g.
  • I was at one time a professional accountant - because I had qualified by passing the professional examinations of my institute and been admitted to membership of professional institute recognised as such by the government (Charter status etc). Doctors, dentists, lawyers and many other occupations which have a "duty of care" implicit or explicit within their professional role have very similar preconditions to being termed a "professional". 

For some professional standards are defined somewhat differently e.g.
  • a professional golfer or tennis player or football player is somebody who does it full time and plays in what are recognised as the leagues or competitions for professional players

Sometimes people define it according to whether or not you get paid, not what standard you have reached
  • in some contexts, professional means you get paid for doing what you are doing - and hence can no longer rank as an amateur or enter competitions for amateurs.  (Remember the disputes for a long time about who could/could not compete at the Olympics?)

Sometimes people define it according to how much you get paid for the value of work you produce.

Which leads us on to......

What is an amateur artist?


In the UK, there is a very simple definition of an amateur artist - in the "hobby" sense.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Art to commemorate 100 years since the war to end all wars

It hardly seems any time at all since the same day four years ago when I wrote So many poppies..... So many men lost......

which followed on from 888,246 poppies - Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

This time, on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, I'm including some photographs of artwork which is part of a Remembrance Art Trail at Canary Wharf
Artist Mark Humphrey has created 11 stunning pieces of art that will be displayed across the estate to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War One. The six previously exhibited artworks will once again be on display alongside 5 new pieces including Every One Remembered, courtesy of the Royal British Legion who commissioned the work in 2014.

Lost Soldiers Installation at Montgomery Square




Part of the "Lost Armies" Installation in Jubilee Park at Canary Wharf




“Every One Remembered” at Jubilee Plaza in Canary Wharf 





by Mark Humphrey for the Royal British Legion.

You can see a video on my Facebook Page of the periodic blowing of the paper poppy petals in the air.

Ian Jack writes in The Observer today - see Conceptual art can never capture the tragedy of the Great War in which he suggests that vast memorial installations are popular, but the most moving tributes are more modest and more real.

I think there's room for both. I also like that artists find various ways to help people remember - but also help teach the younger members of our society that "The war to end all wars" is in fact endlessly repeated in different places by different peoples
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning,We will remember them.

Friday, November 09, 2018

TWO NEW BBC Art Shows

The BBC has announced:
  • The Celebrity Painting Challenge a new programme testing the artistic skills of six well known people (as in you've probably heard of at least one of them)
  • The Artists Art Show - although trailed a new format for interest might be more accurate of what's happened so far.
Read on to find out what's happened so far.

The Celebrity Painting Challenge: Key Facts


  • to be broadcast in 2019 - due to air in Spring 2019. Filming should have started by now. (I wonder if they will go up against BP Portrait Artist of the Year?)
  • the celebrities are: 
    • actor Jane Seymour, 
    • musician and presenter George Shelley, 
    • cricketer and broadcaster Phil Tufnell, 
    • model and DJ Amber Le Bon, 
    • presenter Josie D’Arby and 
    • TV personality Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen
  • the judges are: Daphne Todd and Lachlan Goudie who hitherto have been the Judges on The Big Painting Challenge
  • the mentors are back: Diana Ali and Pascal Anson
  • the presenter is Mariella Frostrup
  • the format is: a four part series. I'm trying to work out six people across four programmes and came up with
    • 2 programmes of 3 each - drop one at the end 
    • a semi final of four people - drop two at the end
    • a final of two people
    • OR 3 programmes with two challenges and six people and a final of a reduced number
  • The Challenges will comprise
    • traditional - portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, still life and life drawings
    • fun challenges "with humour and a twist". 
  • The Final will comprise
    • "the toughest challenge yet"
    • a selection of paintings from the six artists will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.
So basically The Big Painting Challenge with celebrities - over a faster timescale!

The big challenge for me will be whether I can maintain my record of predicting the winner well before the end! ;) Plus I record online - so I'm not just saying that for effect! :)

NOTE: Celebrity Painting Challenge is due to air Spring 2019. It is a BBC Studios production, the Executive Producer is Kat Lennox and the Series Editor is Chi Ukairo. It was commissioned for BBC One by Charlotte Moore, Director BBC Content and Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning.


BBC Artists Art Show - another new series - as well?


Recently this pic has been making the rounds on Facebook. The BBC is looking for artists. I know no more than what it says.

The BBC is looking for artists
It seems to be commission based/biased.  Maybe it's also linked to interior decoration themes? Anyway, it sounds different from anything done to date - although I do worry that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is involved in the first show.....

Note it involves people from across the disciplines and includes potters, carvers, crafters, screen printers and street artists as well as painters.

Could it be this replaces "The Great Pottery Throw Down" which also got the chop?

This new programme could be OK - it certainly sounds a bit more grounded in reality. I wait to hear more with interest.....

If YOU are interested the email is in the image.

The niggles with BBC Painting Programmes


Some of you may recall that I wrote
Interestingly the celebrity show is a BBC Studios production - and the above has a BBC email address to respond to - suggesting BBC Studios may well be behind this programme as well.  Meaning that the awful people who made The Big Painting Challenge - who were basically a "talent show" team may well have been replaced. 

We can but hope....

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The Big Painting Challenge - a Memory Jogger!


The story so far for Series 3 (2018)

Series 2 (2017)

Series 1 (2015)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Review: Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 - Studley Royal Water Garden

Episode 4 of Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 was held at Studley Royal Water Garden - a Georgian landscaped water garden situated in the wild and wooded valley of the river Skell in Yorkshire.

It was the third heat to be both wet and a grey day which took some time to improve - which is somewhat ironic given we had such a hot and very sunny summer this year.

It also threw up an interesting conclusion - which is discussed below. I'd love to hear your views too... (which you can add on my Facebook Page)

Wildcard artists walking over the lake to their location for painting

The Location: Studley Royal Water Garden


Studley Royal Water Garden from way up high above it
The bridge that the wildcard artists (above) are walking over is at the end of the straight canal.
The problem with the Water Garden is it looks great from above, but when viewed from the lakeside - which is where the pods were - it mainly just looks like flat water. (I know I've been there and was greatly underwhelmed by it - until I got some way above it!)

The View FROM ABOVE the Pods
Look at how flat it is - and how much flatter it will be for the artists

The Artists


This week there were five women and three men - and seven painters and one printmaker.

Six professional artists


I'm never very sure why the artists get ordered on-screen. I prefer to be neutral and list them in alphabetical order by surname - links to their websites are embedded in their names and other social media accounts are also listed if self-evident in Google.

It's always interesting when doing these profiles to see which of the professional artists are media and event savvy and have found ways to raise their profile off the back of their television appearance.


  • Dorothy Morris (Facebook Page | Twitter) - Lives and works in Carmarthenshire in South West Wales. She has a degree in Fashion and Textiles, an MA in Fine Art and is a part time Art Teacher (1979 to present). She works in a wide range of materials including textiles, ceramics, mixed media and more traditional mediums such as watercolours and acrylics. She also runs the Greenspace Gallery and Tea Shop in Carmarthen - which also supports charitable endeavours.
  • Alexander Pemberton - Graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 1981. Paints from life mainly by the Thames in Greenwich and also in the streets and areas of London he has lived – previously the East End, now Greenwich and Deptford. He's had solo exhibitions of his landscape paintings at two reputable galleries Abbott & Holder and Chappel Galleries. This is the painting he submitted. Given his experience of painting from life I was somewhat puzzled by his apparent lack of confidence on the programme - and use of a 'prop' which is obviously not the way he normally paints landscapes.
Anthony Eyton has called Pemberton’s paintings ‘deliberate and distilled’.
  • Jessica Rose (Facebook Page | Twitter | Instagram) - a painter printmaker who lives in Ealing and paints in watercolours and oils and makes hand-pulled original prints using techniques including linocut and etching. She also runs classes in Hanwell several times a week teaching drawing and painting skills. 
  • Lucy Smallbone (Facebook) - Specialises in modern landscape painting and prefers to tends to work with oil paint on board as it makes for more interesting marks. She did her foundation diploma in Art and Design at Falmouth; graduated with a 1st class degree in painting from City and Guilds of London Art School and then did a Master Degree at the Slade School of Art where she won several awards for her work, including the 2015 Duveen Travel Prize - which she used to travel to Chernobyl and paint the landscape there. For those interested in learning about oil painting, She's currently delivering a course on Introduction to Oil Painting this term at the Art Acdemy. She's also got two solo art exhibitions
    • Edgelands at Fiumano Clase (25 October - 15 December 2018)
    • an exhibition at HSBC, London, December 2018 

Two amateur artists


Oddly after a week when we had three amateur artists with well developed websites, this week we have two artists who I can't find online.
  • Giles Woodward - a full time Art Teacher in a state secondary school who is also an urban landscape painter who sells his work. This is his blog post about his submission and experience
  • Anne Goh - not sure if I've got the spelling correct. 

Commentary


It was good to see that at least two of the artists (Lucy and Jessica) used a sketchbook to work out potential subjects. I'm always surprised not to see more of the artists use sketchbooks to work out cropping, tonal patterns, colour palettes etc.  I loved the look of Lucy' sketchbook - and she had followed the advice from last week - to research the area and look at what it looks like via online pics in advance of the Heat.

Much of my commentary comes below in relation to the themes and the outcome of the heat.

Learning Points | Themes for this episode


As with all my other blog posts, I tried to detect some learning points within this episode

Be different


I've got people who participated this year corresponding with me behind the scenes. One of the more recent comments was to make sure you do something different for the digital submission - so you stand out and aren't one of the green English landscapes

I did hear Kathleen say that they liked it when urban landscapes are submitted - as landscape painting is not just about the rural perpective.

The submission by Bridget also had a slightly fantasy aspect to it - it certainly looked very different to a conventional landscape - although had recognisable features within it. It reminded me of Peter Doig.

The colours used by Lucy were vivid and unreal - which fits with her style of landscape painting and also of the place she was painting - and they certainly made her painting stand out and get noticed.

Get out of your pod!




One of the things I've not seen a lot of before is artists getting out of their pod and going off looking for a more inspiring view / perspective.

However this time they did!

I'm not in the least bit surprised, given the perspective on a very flat lake, that some of the artists decided to get out of the pod and walk some distance to find something more interesting. Some took a camera / cameraphone with them and at least one (Jessica) took a sketchbook.

This inevitably means that the artists who took phones are then working from digital images which also means they don't have to cope with the changing light, weather etc etc etc.

Speaking personally I'm somebody who simply could not do a competition like this because I have to work on something that 'speaks' to me. That's not to say you can't find an angle - but if it doesn't grab you from the off, the usual result is what feels like a second-rate drawing/painting.

What to do when you don't know what to do


We had some artists with major attacks of nerves in this episode resulting in a lot of nervous activity at one extreme and what seemed to be a lot of pondering at the other.  That's nothing to be ashamed of - in fact, it's entirely normal. The issue is how do you then work your way through the nerves to achieve an outcome that is positive. Essentially the same issue that actors face before going on stage or in front of a camera - or a sportsmen faces before a major challenge where they need to perform NOW!

One of the effects of being nervous is you can lose confidence in your decision-making abilities and don't know what to do for the best.

Techniques used by the artists in this heat to confront their nerves and enable them to paint included:
  • Keep ladling the paint on to the support. I'm not quite sure why Bridget's painting looks nothing like the ones on her website, but I'm prepared to speculate that "keep on painting" was at the back of her mind in terms of how to meet the challenge of painting in front of a camera. (See last week - re 'Knowing when to stop')
  • Give yourself something you can paint. Sometimes you need to limber up and start painting by painting something completely different. Portrait painters are well known for producing small still life studies.  Was this why Alexander decided to introduce a vase into the landscape? I could find no rhyme nor reason behind it.
  • Produce more than one painting.  It's always wise to turn up for an event like this with a choice of supports given you've no idea what the subject is going to be. It's also a good idea to try out different options if nothing grabs you to start with - and then decide which you think will work best. This is the strategy that Lucy seemed to adopt. However if you keep going like this all the way through the heat, you can find yourself with very limited options as you approach the deadline.....

Visual "trickery"


We had three who took an unconventional approach to a landscape
  • Greg Mason created two paintings of alternative perspectives on the garden - one of a completely symmetrical part of the garden and the other looking out from the temple at the garden. I thought it was rather odd but very effective. I just wished it was a little less 'colour neutral'
  • Alexander Pemberton put a rectangular vase on the table. I couldn't work out why. Until I saw his painting at the end and realised it looked like his other paintings which included tower blocks
  • Lucy Smallbone ignored all the grandeur and artifice of the Georgian watergarden and after a number of false starts, she cropped one of the statues to essentially a small bust view and added green into the background. It took nerve to think this might be OK as a landscape.

When is a landscape a landscape?


I was intrigued by what Sjy Arts and/or the Judges think a landscape is. 
Is it anything which isn't a portrait, still life, fantasy art, etc etc?
  • One of the submissions is, as one of the Judges pointed out, strictly speaking an Interior. 
  • One of the Heat Paintings I would describe as a 'still life'. 
  • Another of the artists actively introduced a still life object into his painting.

After last week's heat, I came away thinking a landscape was something that gave a proper sense of place - as experienced by the artist - but that it actually needed to include something we recognised as a landscape - and that place.

So what's the definition of a landscape - and do the guidelines need to be a bit clearer on this topic?

According to the Tate
Landscape is one of the principal types or genres of subject in Western art
According to the Encylopedia Britiannica
Landscape painting, the depiction of natural scenery in art. Landscape paintings may capture mountains, valleys, bodies of water, fields, forests, and coasts and may or may not include man-made structures as well as people. Although paintings from the earliest ancient and Classical periods included natural scenic elements, landscape as an independent genre did not emerge in the Western tradition until the Renaissance in the 16th century. In the Eastern tradition, the genre can be traced back to 4th-century-CE China.
According to Visual Arts Cork (who I really rate) - on their Landscape Painting (1500-present) page they have this....
DefinitionIn fine art, the term 'landscape' - from the Dutch word 'landschap', a patch of ground - describes any painting or drawing whose "principal subject" is the portrayal of a scenic view. Such scenery encompasses meadows, hills, mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, forests, coastal views and seascapes. The view depicted may be that of a real place, or it may be an imaginary or idealized scene.
So what's the Sky Arts definition of Landscape? 

The Results


This was the line up of Heat Paintings....

Paintings from the Heat
By: (left to right) Lucy Smallbone, Greg Mason, Jessica Rose, Bridget Collins, Giles Woodward, Anne Goh, Alexander Pemberton andDorothy Morris
.....and this was the line up of artists participating in the Heat at Studley Royal for Episode 4.

(Left to right) Lucy Smallbone, Bridget Collins, Giles Woodward, Greg Mason, Alexander Pemberton, Jessica Rose, Dorothy Morris and Anne Goh

Episode 4 Shortlist


Shortlisted artists' paintings - submission and the Studley Royal Painting
The artists shortlisted were (in the order they were called)
  • Lucy Smallbone
  • Greg Mason
  • Anne Goh
The Shortlisted Artists
(left to right: Anne Goh, Greg Mason and Lucy Smallbone)

The Shortlisted artists with their heat painting
Here are the line-ups of submission painting plus plein air painting for each artist - and below are the same paintings in the order they are lined up in the above photo.

I'm going to quote what they said re. the artists and their paintings to try and explain their eventual selection of who would go forward to the semi-final.

Submission and Heat Painting by Lucy Smallbone
The Judges said:
  • Tai liked "Lucy's solution to this vast landscape" He loved the painting. (Maybe because he loves that sort of painting?)
  • Kathleen said "She's identified a mood within this landscape by revealing this sculpture, this torso" and also commented that she's walked through this landscape - even if that's in her mind - and this is what she has pulled out.
  • Kate considered it was her unique take on the place - due have a very expressive response to the place. (Does that actually say anything? I think one could actually say that about ANY of the Pod or wildcard artists!)
I think Lucy is a good artist - and I make that judgement having looked at her website. However I'm not sure her painting on the day is a landscape painting.

However I noted how well the two paintings looked next to one another given the very striking use of orange.

While I understand that this is a painting produced by an artist experiencing a place, for me it suggests rather more that it fits with her Chernobyl paintings. I was also puzzled as to why an artist who can very clearly paint landscapes couldn't on this occasion.

More comments below.....

Submission and Heat Paintings by Anne Goh
The Judges said:
  • Kate felt her painting was very traditional and very well conceived. She liked the bronze coming through from the background and also the slightly less finished feel of the heat painting
  • Tai commented that she had a great sense of the mood of the place i.e. what it would look like after everybody had left. He thought he understanding of how to create an atmosphere through light was extraordinary.
Submission and Heat Paintings by Greg Mason

The Judges said:
  • (Kathleen) I totally applaud Greg's ambition today. He's very cleverly fooled me. I wasn't expecting him to peel away something (the tape) at the end to reveal the two paintings. She also made a very astute comment that his paintings are all about moving from one place into another
  • Kate liked the fact the painting on the left goes to nothing at end of the perspective - in contrast to the painting on the right which focuses in on a sculpture at the equivalent place
  • Tai said It feels very intelligent and intellectual and I like that about it.
For me these two paintings were by far the most thoughtful of the shortlisted artists.

For me there was no doubt he was my Heat Winner - however I had a sneaking suspicion that Lucy might just edge him because her way of painting is liked more by Tai and Kate.

Episode 4 Winners - Overall and Wildcard


In a Landscape Artist of the Year, the Judges opted to choose two artists.

The winners of Episode 3 were Lucy Smallbone AND Greg Mason.

Bottom line, IMO the painting produced in the heat by Lucy Smallbone, while very accomplished is NOT a landscape painting. It tells me nothing about the place. I believe that
  • the Judges liked it because it was a good piece of contemporary painting - period.  
  • the reason they ALSO chose a second artist who had produced two much more conventional landscape paintings "in one" was to avoid being howled down by the public (and the sponsors?)! (i.e. they wanted to put her through and had to come up with a rationale!)
Regular readers will know I am no fan of Judges who change the rules to suit their personal tastes - or of competitions that fail to provide adequate guidelines and leave it all up to the Judges. It's all just down to personal taste then.

I think Greg was a worthy winner and that Lucy has a great future in front of her.

The Twitterati were not impressed......

The Wildcard Winner


Amanda Bradbury being told she's won the Wildcard Entry

The Wildcard winner was Amanda Bradbury (Facebook Page) who is a Wildlife Artist and Illustrator based in Gloucestershire. Her wildlife paintings contain illustrative landscapes of natural habitats.

This is the painting which included a strong sense of the rhythm of the weather and the place.

As Amanda commented, they'd been drenched and battered and some canvases ended up in the lake!  One has to admire what the wildcard artists come up without the benefit of the shelter of a pod!

The Wildcard winner - painted from the other end of the lake.


Next week


Next week, the team are back in Broadstairs in Kent and the pods are turned 90 degrees to give different views of the beach and town.

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More about Landscape Artist of the Year on MAM


2018


Previous Years

Monday, November 05, 2018

London Art Galleries and Museums: Membership Scheme costs compared

The cost of seeing an art exhibition in London is not cheap. Enrolling for one or more Friends / Membership schemes can seem like a sensible thing to do if you like viewing art. 

Certainly, I planned on visiting art exhibitions a lot when I retired and one of the very first things I did when I retired was to take out memberships at a number of the national art galleries and museums in London - and I've never regretted it - until now.

The reality is Annual Membership fees for Art Galleries and Museums keep on rising 
  • by more than the cost of inflation (as government funding has been cut) over the course of the recession 
  • some rises have also been pretty steep and less than transparent for those addressing some pretty ambitious development plans!  I use direct debits for my memberships and got a major shock when I realised how much I was now paying for my RA membership!
Given memberships are often gifted at Christmas I thought I'd do a review of:
  • what each membership scheme costs
  • my conclusions as to which is best for what
  • the best value art membership scheme of all - and it's maybe a scheme you're not aware of

Some of you who have enrolled and, like me, have not looked at your direct debits lately may get a SHOCK!

National Gallery from Trafalgar Square on a late winter afternoon

Art Galleries and Museums - The cost of membership


Membership fees have changed and come museums have got very cute at working out what makes a difference to people eg
  • some are very family friendly with free access for more than two kids (see Tate and V&A)
  • some are kind to young people eg V&A
  • some are well suited to those who like taking their friends and guests to an exhibition
  • some do decent discounts on books and items in shops eg NPG and Tate
  • some do decent discounts on restaurant meals and throw in great views eg National Portrait Gallery (one of the main reasons members go to to the NPG!)


Art Gallery / Museum
2017/18
Million
visitors
Benefits Summary
Annual / Life Membership

5.8
Free unlimited entry to exhibitions, special events, members room & other benefits

£64 single
£86 joint
£44 under 26 single

?
Free unlimited entry to all visiting exhibitions and Collection + Friends' Private Views; Friends Rates on tickets for lectures, art classes, talks & events; InView magazine (3 editions per year); Friends monthly e-news; opportunity to get involved with the work of the

£43 single
£61 single + family guest
£25 under 30 single

Year 1 payment covers 14 months for direct debit

5.0
Free unlimited entry to exhibitions + private views of exhibitions, exclusive Members' events including concerts, cinema screenings, talks, and more

£68 single
£94 joint (household)
£107 single + guest
Nothing for young people
1.7
Free unlimited entry to ticketed exhibitions + members' only private views and previews; 10% discount in Gallery Shop, Portrait Café & Restaurant

£55 single (direct debit)
£80 single + guest
£90 joint (same address)
1.1 (2016/17)
Free entry to exhibitions for you and a family guest (but you have to book first for some) + Previews to exhibitions before they open to the public; Priority booking to all RA events. Private views and exclusive Friends events; all-day access to the Keeper's House; RA Magazine and a weekly email newsletter;
10% discount in the RA shop (but not on everything)

£125 standard friend + guest
£60 16-25 single + family guest

[Note: NO SINGLE MEMBERSHIP]
(Tates Modern, Britain,  St Ives and Liverpool)

8.2
Free unlimited entry to all four Tate galleries and any exhibitions, plus member talks, events and viewing hours.

Unlimited free exhibition entry at all four art galleries (No need to book, just turn up) +; Exclusive Members Hours away from the crowds; Access to Members Room; 10% Tate Shop discount. Free admission for up to six children

£76 single (direct debit)
£120 single + guest (direct debit)

Year 1 (Direct Debit) = 15 months for the price of 12


4.4
Free unlimited entry to all exhibitions (no need to book) +  exclusive previews; priority booking for evening talks and access to specially curated Members-only events; Members' Room; V&A Magazine (three times a year); quarterly newsletter & monthly emails; free access to exhibitions for up to four children (under-18)

£70 single
£95 single + guest
£145 joint + 2 guests
£45 single under 25

0.5
Free unlimited entry to all exhibitions + exclusive events (Lectures / tours / exhibition previews); Concession rates on public events including concerts, Friday Lates, lectures and art classes;
10% discount in our Museum Shop and The Wallace Restaurant*

£45 single
£65 joint
£30 Single under 25

  1. Most of the above also do Joint Membership schemes + guests but I've not included them above as I think the cost will have limited appeal to all but the most sociable and well endowed.
  2. The Courtauld Gallery closed in September 2018 for at leas two years for renovations. Meanwhile you can see the Impressionist Paintings from the Coutauld at the National Gallery.

Some of the world famous Courtauld Impressionist paintings at the National Gallery

My conclusions


  • For those who like blockbuster exhibitions - consider 
    • the British Museum (if you like historical / cultural aspects of art)
    • the National Gallery (for once in a lifetime exhibitions of art loaned by other national museums)
    • the V&A (if you like design, fashion and/or contemporary culture)
    • the RA - for "once in a while" blockbusters. (They certainly don't have them every year.)
  • If you have a young family the Tate and V&A are your best bet - both provide free admission for children under 18 (6 and 4 respectively). Others provide free access for under 12s and discounted prices for 13-18 year olds.
  • If you want to see exhibitions when they are less crowded, choose less busy hours of the day or extended hours which are also open to the public
    • Members previews at some galleries are if anything MORE crowded than when the public are in!  
    • Only galleries who are making a very serious effort to make the galleries less crowded for viewing by members should get your money.
  • If you enjoy somewhere to relax after seeing an exhibition, consider the Tate. Best view in London (across the Thames) and some comfy seats at Tate Modern. HOWEVER
    • most galleries forget that a lot of their membership patrons are pensioners who like to have decent sit down at some point during the day, especially after seeing an exhibition. 
    • The leather Chesterfields in the Friend Room at the RA (sadly now gone for good) kept me as a member for a very long time!  Hard seats have very little appeal....
  • If you want a stunning view - and a discount - with your lunch, consider the National Portrait Gallery Restaurant - which looks out at Parliament and the London Eye over the top of the National Galley. The 10% discount is a bonus!
  • Think very long and hard before signing up for a Royal Academy of Arts Friends subscription
    • there is NO SINGLE MEMBERSHIP for those of us who like visiting exhibitions on our own -and/or not having to pay through the nose for the odd times we take a friend as well.
    • as a result, it's TWICE the cost of most of memberships (ie equivalent to Friend + Guest subscriptions elsewhere) - and creeps up each year without being signalled loudly. 
    • Plus having a membership card no longer means free access whenever you want (i.e. the main reason I have a card) as you still need to book entry for members previews and some popular exhibitions - which means less spontaneity and you don't eliminate booking!). 
    • It's much much cheaper to just book for the exhibitions you want to see and pay for tickets online.

The Best Value Membership Scheme - by a long way!