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10 highlights of our 250th year

Published 20 December 2018

2018 was a big year for the RA. We turned 250, united our two buildings on Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens, and held the most provocative Summer Exhibition yet. Oh, and did we mention The Duchess of Sussex dropped by?

  • The RA Summer Exhibition saw the highest visitor turnout in a century


    In 2018, we ticked off our 250-year anniversary with the biggest, brightest and most colourful Summer Exhibition yet. Curated by Grayson Perry CBE RA under the theme ‘Art Made Now’, it featured 1,300 works and attracted a whopping 296, 442 visitors – the highest visitor turnout since 1907.

  • Video

    Take a look inside our 250th Summer Exhibition with coordinator Grayson Perry RA

  • 40,000 people crammed into the RA Schools Life Drawing Room – and found it very comfortable


    In January 2018, we live-streamed the world’s first mass-participation life drawing class as part of the exhibition From Life.

    Led by artist Jonathan Yeo from the RA Schools Life Drawing Room, the class honed in on the male body and focused on a variety of poses. 40,000 people tuned in, with 800 submitting their work using the hashtag #lifedrawinglive. (You can still take part in this class and use our hashtag to show us your work.)

    Also look out for details of the next instalment of Life Drawing Live, to be announced soon…

  • Life Drawing Live
  • After 369 years, we reunited Charles I’s scattered collection


    Charles I: King and Collector – the RA’s once-in-a-lifetime show, which opened to five-star reviews in the Guardian, Independent, Evening Standard and BBC – reunited one of the most influential art collections in history. 

    Acquired by Charles I in the first half of the 17th century, the collection was dispersed following the king’s execution in 1649, and later only partially reassembled. The exhibition brought together key works from across the globe and featured paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens, Holbein, Titian and Mantegna. A quarter of a million people visited Charles I while a further 1.1m people tuned into BBC2’s hourlong tv documentary.

  • Charles I King and Collector, Charles I King and Collector
  • We opened a beautiful new campus


    After years of planning, conservation and research, the RA finally unveiled its newly redesigned campus in May 2018.

    Devised by the internationally acclaimed architect, Sir David Chipperfield CBE RA, the changes to the RA site are the largest and most complex in its history and – for the first time – link the buildings of Burlington House on Piccadilly with Burlington Gardens. Inside, visitors can enjoy free galleries dedicated to experimental art and architecture alongside free displays across the building that showcase historic casts from the RA Collection. Plus there are more opportunities to learn and debate thanks to our new Benjamin West Lecture Theatre and Clore Learning Centre.

  • Explore the new RA

  • Wherever you are in the world, our collection is available night and day (and in your pyjamas)


    Ahead of the opening of the RA’s free displays in June 2018, we got to work redesigning the online presence of our Collection (which includes 10,000 newly digitised items). Users can still search the Collection using traditional terms but an immersive new ‘explorer’ tool allows you to browse visually, encouraging exploration by medium, subject matter, shape, colour, artist or period.

  • John Constable RA (1776 – 1837) , Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky (detail)

    John Constable RA (1776 – 1837) , Seascape Study: Boat and Stormy Sky (detail) , ca. 1824-1828 .

    © Royal Academy of Arts, London; Photographer: John Hammond.

    Oil on paper laid on board. 155 x 185 mm. © Royal Academy of Arts, London; Photographer: John Hammon.

  • Professor Dame Mary Beard

    Professor Dame Mary Beard

    Photo: Benedict Johnson

  • The newest member of the Royal Family paid us a visit


    The Duchess of Sussex visited our Piccadilly home in September on her first solo engagement after the royal wedding in May. It was an exciting moment for the RA (and hopefully for The Duchess of Sussex), who attended our exhibition Oceania before embarking on her overseas tour with The Duke of Sussex, where the couple visited Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.

  • The Duchess of Sussex

    The Duchess of Sussex

    Photo: Lucy Williams

  • The RA travelled the length and breadth of the country 


    The RA marked its 2018 centenary with partner organisations across the UK. Twelve public talks with Royal Academicians took place at a dozen museums across the country, and more than 50 museums and galleries mounted exhibitions or displays that highlighted local Royal Academicians or celebrated their historic connections with the Academy. 

  • Gilbert & George speaking at Wolverhampton School of Art

    Gilbert & George speaking at Wolverhampton School of Art

    ‘In Conversation’ with the director of The New Art Gallery in Walsall, Stephen Snoddy, as part of RA250UK – a series of exhibitions and events around the UK, supported by the Art Fund, to celebrate 250 years of the Royal Academy of Arts.

    Photo: University of Wolverhampton © all rights reserved

  • And contributed to exhibitions in Europe and beyond


    In 2018, the RA loaned more than 100 works of art, as well as books and archival material, to 38 venues in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Japan and the USA.

    Notable loans included Reynolds’ Portrait of Giuseppe Marchi (1753) at the National Galleries Scotland, Constable’s Rainstorm over the Sea (ca. 1824 - 1828) at the The Met and Frank Bowling’s Wintergreens (1986), which travelled to Munich, Dublin, and will show at Tate in 2019.

  • Frank Bowling RA, Wintergreens

    Frank Bowling RA , Wintergreens , 1986 .

    Acrylic on canvas. 1740 x 3480 x 100 mm. Photo: RA/John Hammond © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

  • And finally, RA is better than Prozac


    Don’t take our word for it; ask Apple CEO Tim Cook. 

    Our relationship with Apple began with an RA Schools exhibition that used the iPad Pro. These works, which were presented at the headquarters of Apple London, so intrigued CEO Tim Cook, that he visited the RA Schools in October 2017. In a later televised interview at the Oxford Foundry, Cook was asked what inspired him. He described meeting the students at the RA Schools, saying their creativity was “unbelievable medicine, better than any Prozac you can buy.”

  • To all of Friends, visitors, supporters and followers – THANK YOU for supporting the RA in our anniversary year! We couldn’t do what we do without you. A very merry Christmas to you, and here’s to another 250 years of art and ideas…


    Speaking of which, here’s a taster of the art to look forward to over the next year…

  • Find out what we have coming up in 2019

    Artistic Director Tim Marlow introduces our upcoming exhibition programme, from Phyllida Barlow to Antony Gormley.

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