Any big ‘show’ like the David Hockney at the Royal Academy or the Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery, have become a bit of an ordeal as they can involve, literally, hours of queuing.
When I tried the Hockney I was told it would be a one and a half hour wait, and that was considered short by the cultured and patient. So I skipped Hockney and swanned into the queue-less Johann Zoffany in the same building – beautiful 18th century stuff.
But if you have set your heart on a favourite artist, you have to be prepared to wait in a crocodile outside in the cold. The organised arrive with warm clothing, food, and above all, a book.
The waiting public is noble, but it remains an abominable ‘system’ and the museums should come up with a civilised solution soon.
Then, on top of the wait, there is the small matter of the money you have to spend once you are in. Entrance fees for big exhibitions in London like the National Gallery’s Da Vinci earlier this year and the Hockney, now charge an unapologetic £14 a head, but give it five or less years and we will be obediently forking out £20 a go.
If you want to see these shows, which are admittedly still cheaper per head than most theatre and a possible plus, shorter, there is little you can do to shave the ticket price. It helps to buy a ticket in person and so you miss the booking fee charged on the phone or internet.
All the big London galleries and lots of the out of town ones offer friends /membership. Thus if you are a single member of the RA (cost £99 a year) you can go straight into one of its exhibitions: perfect for Hockney fans. Watch out for various deals out of town which are relevant to 60 and 65+, for example the G F Watt’s Gallery near Guildford charges just £2 on a Tuesday.
But rather than becoming a member of the Tate, the RA etc, you could make a smart move and invest in a National Art Pass, courtesy of the Art Fund. This costs £52.50 a year for two people and £37.50 for a single, the OAP has no discount. The card will get you into provincial galleries and exhibitions all over the country for free and you also get into big shows at half price, which is pretty good.
The Art Fund is a particularly good thing to sponsor because it helps buy important art for the nation via donations and with the proceeds from the art pass. It has saved over the years many old masters from going to the US and elsewhere. I think there will be more imaginative cultural offers if entrance fees rise much more.
I was given an Art Pass for my birthday which was wonderful. I went to the RA’s Zoffany with it but only got £2 off the £9 ticket. The RA has its own Friends so it doesn’t want to encourage others too much.