Last updated on January 19th, 2019
The Royal Wedding isn’t the only big event in London on Saturday 19 May. The Royal Academy opens its newly buffed doors to a new two-acre campus with 70% more public spaces and a bridge linking Burlington House on Piccadilly to 6 Burlington Gardens in Mayfair. And to mark its 250 year-anniversary, there’s a weekend-long art party with workshops, tours, performances and DJs.
The man waving the architectural wand is Royal Academician Sir David Chipperfield, and the displays have been curated by Royal Academicians and designed by museographer Adrien Gardère. With a whopping £56 million spend, the new spaces include a suite of galleries for temporary exhibitions, inaugurated by Tacita Dean’s Landscape, a majestic gallery space which focuses on sixty years of the RA, a new lecture theatre, a public project space for students and alumni, and a ritzy bar and restaurant.
The Royal Academy Collection Gallery
The devil greets me at the entrance to the Collection Gallery. These glorious rooms have been curated by the President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun, who had the daunting task of picking his favourites from the RA’s collection of 46,000 objects. An almost full-size copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper from 1506 mesmerises, as well as portraits of the great and godly Academicians. Turner and Constable’s landscapes make an appearance, naturally.
Angelica Kauffman was one of two female founding members of the Royal Academy, and a close friend of the RA’s founder, Joshua Reynolds. She would not have been allowed to attend the nude sessions in the Life Room, drawing figures from existing works instead.
And here they are: the forty Royal Academicians gathered in their first home at Somerset House. You can catch Kauffman in the back row with Mary Moser, the second female founding member. Benjamin West, the second RA President, takes centre stage.
The only Michelangelo sculpture in the UK is on display in the RA Collection Gallery. The Taddei Tondo is a jaw-droppingly beautiful sight to see, and you can see if for free.
The Vaults is a public route that connects the two buildings and which exhibits The Making of an Artist: Learning to Draw, a selection of plaster casts from the early years of the RA schools, together with paper works from the RA teaching collection. Antique sculptures such as Venus de Milo and Hercules in Repose are on display.
The Weston Studio
The Weston Studio is a public space dedicated to innovative and experimental projects, exhibition, installations, events and performances presented by current students and graduates of the RA. 17 artists join the postgraduate programme every year.
The Benjamin West Lecture Theatre
A new 250-seat lecture theatre will give the RA a permanent space for learning, discussion and debate.
The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries
Tacita Dean’s largest work ever made on blackboard measures nine metres wide and seven metres tall. Her Landscape exhibition inaugurates the new Royal Academy gallery, and is the last of a three-part Tacita Dean collaboration between the RA, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery.
The new Royal Academy of Arts opens on Saturday 19 May at 10am. Tacita Dean’s Landscapes also opens on 19 May.
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