How do I hold my head up high when I’m up from the Sticks for my weekly London fix? One way is to whizz into an exhibition at breakneck speed during the day, in order to achieve something other than trying on unsuitable designer outfits and eating Yo! Sushi.
By alternating culture with shopping I get a glorious (possibly delusory) sense of purpose, and by belonging, as I do, to a variety of arty memberships (Tate RA V&A ROH NT and the Artfund) this Artfix is made as easy as pie.
Annual cost? £50 -£70 a piece (or £350 pa for all of the above): a snip in the grand scheme of things because suddenly the Art World is your Oyster with sell out shows, secret houses, free talks, ballet rehearsals, and members rooms offering respite and focus all over town, at the drop of a hat.
The trouble with Art nowadays is that it has become so deadly serious and far too much of a mission. Why, oh why, when a ten-minute visit will do the trick just as well? A recent research-led memory-lane whistle-stop tour of Damian (Tate Mod) reacquainted me with the delights of tobacco: by sticking my head into a mega-size ashtray full of Silk Cut fag ends I probably experienced enough to hold conversational sway later in the day. That’s half the fun isn’t it? And when I found myself carelessly asleep on the leather sofa-bench of the upstairs members' room at the V&A, I quickly realized how reassuring membership actually is: where else in central London can I grab forty winks without causing a sensation? That’s one of the bonuses of being a Friend: knowing that no one minds if I drop off quietly in the corner or chew/paint my fingernails before an evening’s onslaught. The rest of the perk (of being a serial Friend) is the opportunity to dip ‘n’ dive, all round town, from show to show, without agenda or financial reservation.
My modus operandi: If I can come and go with alacrity, and don’t have to fork out £8 – 12 every time I go into an exhibition, I see more shows more often. I come away feeling pleased with myself, sated, possibly informed. No more Art oblige. No more trying to reconcile the cost of entry with the level of enjoyment (not always equal). And no need to rationalize yet another curatorial fantasy or expose myself any longer than is absolutely necessary to the Emperor’s New Clothes School of Art. Call it Cultural Philistinism if you like, but little and often is my new rule, and a welcome end to Art Overload. Stay fifteen or fifty minutes - either way I enjoy.
I LOVE being a card-carrying member –Tomax included. It offers me FREEDOM: freedom to pass, to roam, no plan, no fuss - a modest thrill in this day and age, and almost as satisfying as returning home from a day’s shopping in London with only a loaf of bread to hand.