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York Art Gallery will no longer be free when it reopens after a major renovation in August, it was revealed on Wednesday (April 15).

Adults will have to pay £7.50 admission to get into the gallery. The charge is being introduced by its owner, the York Museums Trust, to cover a loss of income from City of York Council, with more budget cuts expected after the General Election.

A new membership scheme will be established offering 12 month entry to all York Museums Trust sites as well as other benefits such as access to previews plus discounts at the sites’ cafes and shops. This will cost £22 per adult.

The Kids Go Free offer will remain, allowing free access for all children under 16 with one paying adult.

A statement by the trust said it had to become a “cultural business rather than a cultural service”.

In this economic landscape York Museums Trust is having to adapt and look for new ways to create funds.

It is only by becoming more of a cultural business rather than a cultural service that the Trust will continue to thrive and inspire visitors while remaining a key part of York’s cultural offer.

These changes are essential to ensure that the Trust remains economically viable and, in time, more self-sufficient.

Visitor numbers predicted to rise

York Art Gallery used to charge admission. Entry charges were abolished after the York Museums Trust took over the gallery in 2002.

Despite the introduction of the entrance fee, the trust expects visitor numbers to rise:

York Art Gallery visitor numbers
DateVisitorsVisitors
per month
Apr 2011-Apr 2012226,40418,867
Aug 1, 2015-
Mar 31, 2016*
190,00023,750
* Forecast figures. Source: York Museums Trust

A spokesman for the trust said that the forecast was based “on the brand new product which we hope will entice people to come through the doors.

“It is looking incredible in there. We hope word of mouth, and the interest in seeing the new gallery, will help visitor number stay high.”

The trust is also hopeful that there will be a big take-up of the membership scheme.

Time of austerity in the arts

The trust points out in its statement that securing £8 million of investment, which will transform York Art Gallery “into one of the best regional galleries in the country”, is a “major achievement in a time of austerity in public funding across the country”.

But on the flip side, it has seen a reduction in funding after national government cut funding to councils, which in turn had to “make tough decisions on how best to spend their significantly decreased budgets”.

The trust says:

As a result, for York Museums Trust it has meant income from City of York Council has fallen from £1.5 million to £600,000 in three years, a 60 per cent cut.

The uncertainty in arts funding is increased further by the imminent general election. Whatever the outcome, it seems highly likely that local authority budgets will be cut again and that national income streams for the arts could be reduced or reallocated elsewhere.

The investment and reopening

York Museums Trust chief executive outside York Art Gallery. Photograph: Richard McDougall

York Museums Trust chief executive outside York Art Gallery. Photograph: Richard McDougall

When it reopens on August 1, 2015, York Art Gallery will have 60 per cent more exhibition space and a new Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA).

With funding for new gardens at the rear of the gallery and the £1.7 million spent on the York Castle Museum’s First World War exhibition last year, that brings York Museums Trust investment to more than £10 million in two years.

New commissions, Old Masters and more than 2,000 ceramic works will feature in displays in the renovated gallery, which includes a new mezzanine area, it was revealed last month.

The new charges in full

York Museums Trust new charging policy in full is as follows:

York Art Gallery
An admission charge of £7.50 for adults will be introduced when it reopens on August 1.

YMT Card – 12 month pass for adults
York Museums Trust will be introducing the YMT Card offering free entry for 12 months into all of York Museums Trust sites.

The YMT Card will include other benefits such as access to previews plus discounts at the sites’ cafes and shops. It will cost £22 per adult and be available to buy from York Museums Trust sites and online.

This will replace the current 12 month ticket offers for the Yorkshire Museum and/or York Castle Museum as well as the current joint ticket offer. More details of the YMT Card will be released shortly.

Kids Go Free will continue across all York Museums Trust sites, allowing under 16s free entry with one paying adult (no organised groups).

Discounted tickets
A new Access Ticket will also be implemented across all York Museums Trust sites.

The new Access Ticket will offer up to 50 per cent off day tickets and the YMT Card to 17-24 year olds and those on Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit or Income Support (evidence may be required).