SOMEONE at the Jerwood Gallery has made a serious miscalculation if they think that its new membership scheme (£60 for a joint annual membership) represents anything other than extremely poor value for money when one considers that not only is this approximately two thirds of the cost of an annual membership to the Tate or Royal Academy, but is also considerably in excess of what is being charged by other smaller private galleries.
I don’t know how, for example, the Jerwood can justify asking £10 more than the much larger and infinitely superior Courtauld Gallery, in London, which houses one of World’s finest private collections of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.
The Jerwood must surely recognise that in art, as in all other commercial activities, there needs to be a realistic relationship between the quality of the product being sold and the price that the customer is being asked to pay. And the simply reality is that the Jerwood it is a small provincial gallery that houses a good – but not exceptional - permanent collection of work by mainly second division British painters, supplemented by a few special exhibitions (mostly by uninspiring Arts Council approved artists) that appeal to only a minority of its potential audience and which can often be seen for free at several publicly funded galleries.
Even the Jerwood’s concessionary joint membership (£40) isn’t very good value when one consider that the Courtauld, for example, offers free entrance to anyone who is unwaged, under 18 or in full-time education, and, for reasons that I can’t even begin to fathom, the Jerwood has also chosen to restrict eligibility to couples who share the ‘same concessionary status’ and who are also ‘living at the same address’, rather than adopting the usual system of free entry to a member plus guest.
I supported the Jerwood project when it was first proposed and I would very much like it to succeed, but the current membership proposal needs to go back to the drawing board and, if the Jerwood hopes for a long term future in the Town once the honeymoon is over, there needs to be a more realistic relationship between the price being asked and the quality and desirability of the product being sold.
De Cham Avenue