In the ten years after the UK made entrance to national museums free entrance, the amount of visitors increased by over 150 percent.
So clearly, UK citizens and tourists are happy with this relatively new development.
So, now visitors can peruse the permanent collections of the National gallery, National portrait gallery, Tate Modern at leisure.
The government subsidises the arts and for a good reason.
Across the pond, it costs $18 for a student to simply step inside the Guggenheim in New York. And god forbid if you forget your student ID, your pocket will be $25 lighter.
It’s unfair to disregard a group of people who have to choose between a meal or a museum visit.
No matter how desperate you are to see the unique collection of Robert Mapplethorpe’s finest photographs or Ai Wei Wei’s ‘China Log’, for people of lower socio-economic backgrounds or just students on a budget, the museum’s exorbitant entrance fee rules this out.
Of course, the staff and people of the museum need to be paid and they should be paid well. But there are others ways to do this.
The Saatchi Gallery, the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern each have gift shops as well curated as the collections themselves.
In fact, they are probably some of my favourite shops in London.
After I have entered the gallery for free I usually convince myself I have to have a book of David Hockney’s pool paintings (Tate Britain, if you’re wondering) or a Moleskin journal with the infamous Rolling Stones tongue plastered on the front for £25 – just one example of the must-have merchandise after the Saatchi’s Rolling Stones exhibition.
So, even if entrance to the museum itself is free I rarely leave without contributing in one way or another.
This brings me to my next point; special exhibitions. Although it was free to enter Tate Britain and Saatchi Gallery, I had to pay for these one-off and much-anticipated exhibitions. Simply put, the museums know what the gallery-goers want. And crucially, they know what people will really pay for and what people won’t.
The point of art is for it to be talked about, and discussed by people from all corners of the world (whether they can afford a staggering $25 or not).
It has been argued that museums would be valued more if they charged entrance fees but how can they be valued by those who simply cannot afford to enter them.
Art is a fundamental part of our society and it’s unfair to disregard a group of people who have to choose between a meal or a museum visit.