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The best culture memberships to kickstart a year of art

From top galleries to online courses, these annual passes are a pledge to catch more culture this year

gallery memberships
Rory Gardiner

A year’s membership to a gallery, sculpture park, book club or course isn’t just a way to save on repeated visits, but a commitment to cultural experiences for the year ahead. We’ve selected fifteen of our favourite options – all of which are also available as gifts – from well-loved museums to lesser known clubs and passes.

Best for: beautiful members’ rooms

■ London’s landmark galleries have something of a monopoly on members’ rooms, and none are as special as the V&A’s. Membership includes unlimited free entry to all exhibitions, exclusive previews and shop discounts. From £45, vam.ac.uk

gallery memberships
The V&A Museum’s former history study room was transformed into this striking members space
Rory Gardiner

■ Friends of the Royal Academy of Arts get free and prioritised access to all exhibitions, plus the option to bring a family member and up to four children. The Friends Lounge is tucked away in the Keeper’s House. From £62, royalacademy.org.uk

■ It’s four-for-one with Tate membership, which grants members free exhibition entry and special hours across all galleries. There are members’ bars at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and the latter boasts brilliant views across to St Paul’s Cathedral. From £84, tate.org.uk

Best for fresh air

■ Scottish sculpture park and gallery Jupiter Artland holds a special May preview for Friends, who can ramble among its Antony Gormleys and Phyllida Barlows as they please during the open season. For an extra £25, you can bring up to two dogs. From £40, jupiterartland.org

      ■ Friends of Lambeth’s Garden Museum enjoy private views of exhibitions, discounted tickets for garden visits and a subscription to the journal. Its Dan Pearson-designed Sackler Courtyard Garden is an urban sanctuary. From £40, gardenmuseum.org.uk

      ■ With its 13th-century tithe barn and sculpture-dotted grounds, Wiltshire arts centre Messums is a spectacular rural offshoot for the London gallery. Members get access to it all, plus preview days and online talks. £50, messumswiltshire.com

      gallery memberships
      The Messums sculpture garden includes Albert Paley’s ‘Proscenium EX-252’

      Best for life-long learners

      Masterclass has persuaded cultural titans to share their skills and insight in over 100 beautifully shot online courses – think Frank Gehry teaching architecture, Annie Leibovitz on photography and Kelly Wearstler’s insight into interior design. From £168, masterclass.com

      ■ An invitation to ‘dive into one’s deepest self’, membership to The School of Life includes big discounts on workshops, conversation evenings and books, reflecting on everything from relationships to resilience. From £30, theschooloflife.com

      gallery memberships
      The School of Life offers an emotional education via its books, talks and courses
      Robert Evans / Alamy

      The Idler Academy is an offshoot of the cult magazine, and members get a subscription, unlimited access to back issues and over 60 courses. Some err towards the esoteric – beekeeping, ukulele, medieval literature – which is all part of the charm. From £69.95 for course access, idler.co.uk

      Best for indecisive types

      ■ A do-it-all National Art Pass offers free entry to more than 200 museums and galleries as well as 50% off exhibitions at many of the big hitters. The scheme is an important channel of support for charity Art Fund. From £43, artfund.org

      Rough Trade Club is a must for open-minded music lovers, who will receive an exclusive pressing of its Album of the Month. If you’re really not keen, swaps are offered too. £263.88 per year for vinyl, roughtrade.com

      ■ The Willoughby Book Club’s subscriptions include themes such as Homes & Gardens and Food & Drink, as well as a bespoke option, with titles hand-selected according to tastes. From £119.99, thewilloughbybookclub.co.uk

      Best for lovers of architecture

      ■ Friends of the Royal Institute of British Architects get discounts on walking tours and behind-the-scenes building visits, as well as money off in the bar, café and bookshop. £45, architecture.com

      Barbican membership means free entry to all exhibitions at the brutalist beacon, plus after-hours previews, exclusive film screenings, rehearsal viewings and access to the members' lounge. £59, barbican.org.uk

      gallery memberships
      The spectacular Lakeside Terrace of London’s brutalist Barbican estate and arts centre
      Max Colson

      ■ Members of charity The Twentieth Century Society, which campaigns for buildings under threat, receive discounts on events, a free copy of the journal and magazine C20, as well as supporting a good cause. From £45, c20society.org.uk

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