Four views on the Royal Academy’s future

Published 11 May 2015

Four key figures connected to the RA look forward to a major transformation at the Academy in 2018.

    • Tim Marlow

      Tim Marlow

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

      Tim Marlow

      The RA’s Artistic Director on an increased array of ambitious events and exhibitions.

      “The RA is one of the world’s great cultural playgrounds, and in 2018, all of its different parts will be joined – physically and intellectually – into one big creative campus running from Mayfair to Piccadilly.

      As well as its wonderful existing galleries, new exhibition spaces will show the work of Academicians and students, as well as treasures from the RA Collection. There’s a new lecture theatre and learning centre, while the library and archive will still be here, as will the Schools.

      The RA was founded by artists, and its independence from the Government is a great strength – this gives us immense creative freedom. In 2018 we are staging a festival across the RA, with events exploring art and architecture and their conversations with other art forms. We’ll devote the whole campus to the Summer Exhibition, and we plan to have one architecture exhibition each year too – remember ‘Richard Rogers’ and ‘Sensing Spaces’? The RA has always been high-profile, energetic and visionary. It’s going to be even more so in 2018.”

    • Julie Born Schwartz

      Julie Born Schwartz

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

      Julie Born Schwartz

      The RA Schools alumna on the increased visibility of a special place to study.

      “The RA Schools was my home for three years. As an art school set in a historic art institution in Mayfair, it is unique. The studios are located between Burlington House and Burlington Gardens, so as well as seeing the RA’s shows, we would visit the local galleries too.

      No other major art school in the UK is free, and you also receive a bursary so you can focus on making work. The course is all-encompassing, from crits, to lectures and seminars in the life drawing room [right] with writers, artists and philosophers, all in this amazing historical setting.

      My work is photography and film-based so I worked in the editing suite, but you were encouraged to try anything: I made some bronze sculptures in my first year. The diversity of people and media makes a really great dynamic.

      In 2018 the new Schools Project Space will display student work, and should help broaden the public’s knowledge of the Schools, as will the link between the two buildings, from which people will see the tops of the studios. The studios will remain private though, because they are sacred spaces where artists can experiment.”

    • Mary Beard

      Mary Beard

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

      Mary Beard

      The historian on how the treasures in the RA Collection and Archive will be revealed.

      “I first came across the RA Collection 18 years ago, when my research led me to its marvellous casts, which are taken from original antique sculptures. They have been preserved unusually well because, unlike a lot of other cast collections, they have been in constant use, drawn by generations of RA Schools’ students.

      Nearly two decades later I’m now sitting on the RA Collection Committee, which has allowed me a much better understanding of the extraordinary range of objects in the collection, from Michelangelo’s iconic Taddei Tondo (1504- 05) and Turner’s painting palette to one of the most eerie works in the collection, George Frampton RA’s sculpture of Lamia, inspired by a Keats poem. I’ve even picked up an original 1788 edition of Plans, Elevations and Sections of Buildings by the architect John Soane RA, from the Academy’s archive – an Aladdin’s cave that holds everything from artists’ notebooks and diaries to great stuff about the Summer Exhibition.

      The RA Collection has been acquired by artists for artists. That is what makes it so rich and exciting. It includes works made, owned or admired by Academicians, and many have been used to teach RA Schools students. In 2018, the free-entry spaces dedicated to the collection will reveal not only the collection but a hidden artistic and intellectual history.”

    • Christopher Le Brun PRA

      Christopher Le Brun PRA

      Photo: Benedict Johnson

      Christopher Le Brun PRA

      The President on the RA’s expanding role as a hub of creative and intellectual debate.

      “The RA Library is one of the greatest repositories of ideas on art and architecture, and its crown jewels include the Discourses on Art, published in 1797 by the Academy’s founding President, Joshua Reynolds. These theories continue to constitute a substantial intellectual contribution on the part of the Royal Academy to European culture, but we forget they were originally presented by Reynolds as lectures, and that Royal Academicians have long debated art aloud both to their peers and the public.

      In 2018, a new lecture theatre will make the RA the place to come for debate about visual culture. It will be a beautiful, high, light-filled space designed for speech, for discussion about art and its practice and philosophy. With its semicircle of benched seating, the design follows a classical ideal favouring the human voice and eye contact between the participants.

      Directly next door will be the Clore Learning Centre. The Royal Academy already runs an extensive programme of practical workshops, so this new studio has tremendous potential in terms of events to inspire and encourage art-makers of all ages.

      One can imagine a situation where you learn about colour theory in the lecture theatre, then walk next door to the studio, put on an apron and practise the ideas and techniques you have just learnt. At the Academy, after all, we are not just about ideas – we are also practising artists.”

  • Find out more about the RA’s redevelopment plans on the RA250 page.

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