Hockney vs Ramsey, Scorsese on Caravaggio and Joffe in lockdown: the RA Magazine at 40

Published 6 October 2023

Our magazine turns 40 this autumn. Editor Sam Phillips looks back through the archive to pick out his highlights from the past four decades.

    • RA Magazine 1, September 1983

      The one that started it all

      Number 1, September 1983

      RA President Sir Hugh Casson launched the Friends membership scheme in 1977 and by 1983, with burgeoning numbers, the scheme had outgrown its modest newsletter – a proper magazine was needed. Reading the first issue is like opening a time capsule: the design sings the early 1980s, with adverts ranging from the first Ford Sierra to knitwear by Simpsons. Editorially it’s full of energy, and its rich variety of articles, in both subject and format, set a template we continue today.

    • RA Magazine 28, Autumn 1990

      Monet, Monet, Monet

      Number 28, Autumn 1990

      The archetypal RA blockbuster in many people’s minds remains ‘Monet’ (if not ‘Hockney’), thanks to two wonderful exhibitions of the French painter in the 1990s that had queues snaking around the RA’s courtyard. Both were duly the subject of special issues of RA Magazine. The special issue on ‘Monet in the 90s’ is a journalistic tour de force, with features on his life story (complete with illustrated timeline), influences (including Japanese woodblock prints, first seen by a young Monet reproduced on grocery wrapping paper) and legacy (to Abstract Expressionism via Kandinsky), as well as his legendary gardening, River Thames vistas and the subject of the show – his series paintings.

    • RA Magazine 56, Autumn 1997

      The Sensational one

      Number 56, Autumn 1997

      RA Magazine’s ‘Sensation’ issue sold out, such was the buzz (and controversy) around the show. The edition records the moment when the YBA avant-garde stormed the art establishment – a turning point in British culture. Its thoughtful journalism makes an interesting counterpoint to the tabloid headlines of the time. Interestingly, there is a section of responses to the show by Royal Academicians – some of which were negative. The magazine has always been a platform for RAs’ voices, including those of dissent.

    • RA Magazine 72, Autumn 2001

      The first one I read

      Number 72, Autumn 2001

      I bought this edition of RA Magazine to help with my application to become the magazine’s editorial assistant in 2001 – it was the first I had the pleasure to read. Luckily, I got the job, working under editors Mira Hudson, who had just taken over from Nick Tite, and then Sarah Greenberg – all three were inspiring editors. A highlight of this Auerbach-adorned issue is the conversation between psychoanalyst Susie Orbach and painter Maggi Hambling on Rembrandt. The kind of piece that is a joy to edit as well as read.

    • RA Magazine 85, Winter 2004

      Scorsese on Caravaggio

      Number 85, Winter 2004

      Some of our most enjoyable articles are written by figures outside the art world. This edition included Martin Scorsese on Caravaggio (an idea that was swiftly stolen by BBC’s Culture Show), as well as fellow director Richard Eyre on Turner, journalist Andrew Marr in conversation with Hockney, philosopher A.C. Grayling on Rothko, and novelist Orhan Pamuk on the drawings of Muhammad of the Black Pen, from the RA’s ‘Turks’ exhibition. In the ‘features well’ (journalist’s jargon for the run of articles in the centre) art historians explore the centuries-old cultures of the Turkic-speaking peoples.

    • RA Magazine 123, Summer 2014

      The new RAs

      Number 123, Summer 2014

      The boundary-breaking artists of the mid-20th century, such as Henry Moore and Francis Bacon, had little interest in the RA – it was a bastion of tradition back then. But by the early 21st, Tracy Emin, Anish Kapoor and Jenny Saville were Members, and in 2014, the 11 new RAs included Yinka Shonibare, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rebecca Warren and Chantal Joffe. A critical mass of cutting-edge artists were electing their peers, making the RA more radical. Ben Luke asked in this issue of RA Magazine whether the Academy was now finally representative of “the dizzying breadth of visual culture in Britain today?”

    • RA Magazine 139, Summer 2018

      250 years in 164 pages

      Number 139, Summer 2018

      This is the biggest issue we’ve ever published: 164 pages celebrating the RA’s 250th birthday and the redevelopment of its Burlington Gardens building. We dispensed with the regular sections and presented an ‘RA Q&A’, with articles answering questions about the Academy’s identity and history. My favourites included the answer to “What will the RA be like in 250 years time?” by the late great Brian Catling RAa fictional letter by a future President, after a sentient AI was elected RA.

    • RA Magazine 147, Summer 2020

      RA Magazine at a time of crisis

      Number 147, Summer 2020

      My most challenging issue as editor, and the one I am most proud of, was produced during the early weeks of the Covid pandemic. After lockdown descended, we scrapped our entire plan for the magazine and devised a new one true to the very difficult times. And as the RA closed its doors, the magazine became especially important, bringing art to Friends’ homes. Chantal Joffe RA painted a moving front cover for us – her sister and niece in their front doorway, maintaining social distance from the artist.

    • RA Magazine 160, Autumn 2023

      Hot off the press

      Number 160, Autumn 2023

      Our 40th anniversary issue coincides with a landmark exhibition: the RA’s first show of performance art, from the world-renowned pioneer of the form, Marina Abramović. We wanted Friends to read the captivating artist in her own words, so we invited her to talk in-depth with the acclaimed writer Sinéad Gleeson, and we published an edited transcript. The pleasure of editing the magazine is in the sheer range of art we cover, and encountering Abramović’s art has expanded my mind. I hope you enjoy meeting her and her work through the pages of this edition.

    • Beauty and the beast RA magazine page

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