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New Royal Academy of Arts opens on May 19, 2018

The Wohl Entrance Hall. Photo credit: Rory Mulvey.

THE Royal Academy of Arts, the world’s foremost artist and architect-led institution, will open its new campus to the public on Saturday, May 19, 2018 as part of the celebrations of its 250th anniversary year.

Following a transformational redevelopment, designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Sir David Chipperfield CBE RA and supported by the National Lottery, the new Royal Academy will open up and reveal more of the elements that make the RA unique – sharing with the public historic treasures from its Collection, the work of its Royal Academicians and the Royal Academy Schools, and its role as a centre for debate about art and architecture – alongside its world-class exhibitions programme.

One of the key features of the redevelopment is the new Weston Bridge between Burlington House and Burlington Gardens, uniting the two-acre campus and creating a new route between Piccadilly and Mayfair. The unified campus provides 70% more public space than the RA’s original Burlington House footprint, enabling the RA to expand its exhibition and events programme, and to create new and free displays of art and architecture across the campus for visitors year-round.

Dedicated galleries and displays exploring its foundation and history in training artists, to changing exhibits and interventions devoted to showcasing contemporary works by Royal Academicians and students at the art school are at the heart of the campus. The display of the Royal Academy Collection has been curated by Royal Academicians and designed by renowned museographer Adrien Gardère.

The Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries provides the Royal Academy with an impressive third suite of galleries for temporary exhibitions. Refurbished with state of the art conditions, the galleries are naturally day-lit and will support an exhibition programme of contemporary art and architecture. They will be inaugurated by Tacita Dean’s exhibition LANDSCAPE (May 19 to August 12, 2018).

Since 1768, the Royal Academy’s founding principle has been to promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts and architecture, which the RA has achieved through a rich public programme of discussion and debate as well as exhibitions. The creation of the new 250-seat Benjamin West Lecture Theatre, the Clore Learning Centre and the restoration of the Wolfson British Academy Room, will give the RA permanent spaces for it to thrive as a hub of learning and debate well into the future.

Animating the campus throughout the year, the RA’s new public events programme will increase in scale and ambition, featuring festivals, major talks and in-conversations, architecture awards, more hands-on creative educational activities for families, schools and community groups, as well as academic courses and classes for adult learners and the newly launched Executive Master in Cultural Leadership, reaching out to new and diverse audiences of all ages in the practice and study of art and architecture.

A new public route through the campus will integrate the Royal Academy Schools, located at the very heart of the Academy, into the visitors’ experience revealing the Academy’s important role in arts education and its long tradition of training artists. The new Weston Studio, a public project space for students and alumni, and views of the Schools’ Corridor and the newly landscaped Lovelace Courtyard, will provide visitors with a greater insight into Britain’s longest established art school.

New spaces to eat, drink and relax include the Senate Room bar and all-day restaurant located within The Dorfman Senate Rooms on the first floor. The room is a magnificent double-height space, formerly the meeting place of the Senate of the University of London. It has been fully restored to the highest conservation standards by David Chipperfield Architects. Further cafes and shops will be located either side of the Burlington Gardens entrance. Other extensive improvements have been made across the campus to create new ticket desks, bathrooms and cloakrooms.

The transformation of the Royal Academy has included the vital conservation of the Grade II listed building of 6 Burlington Gardens. Designed by Sir James Pennethorne (1801 – 1871) as the headquarters for the University of London on a site which had previously been part of the garden of Burlington House, it was regarded as a masterpiece of mid-Victorian architecture. Acquired by the Royal Academy in 2001, its former tenants included the Civil Service Commission, the British Academy and the British Museum’s Museum of Mankind.

The new David Chipperfield designed architecture, together with the careful conservation of the façade, the reinstatement of the lecture theatre and restoration of The Dorfman Senate Rooms by Julian Harrap Architects, will contribute to the nationally renowned significance of Burlington Gardens.

In its 250th year, the new Royal Academy of Arts will become a major cultural destination in central London, with year-round access to a significantly expanded public programme and with more space to make, debate and exhibit art and architecture than ever before.

Opening Weekend of the new Royal Academy of Arts

To celebrate the opening of the new Royal Academy, a weekend-long art party on May 19 and 20 will present free workshops, tours, displays, late-night performances and DJs. Highlights include performances by The Uncollective and Rachael Plays Disco; Collaborative Mural Drawing, Party Hat Making and Architectural Model Making; Rainbow participatory performance in the front hall of Burlington Gardens with Musarc; RA Collection Gallery Tours; and a Family printmaking workshop in the new Clore Learning Centre. All against a backdrop of street food and cocktail bars in the RA’s Annenberg Courtyard.

New Exhibition Spaces and Free Displays

Tacita Dean’s exhibition LANDSCAPE (May 19 to August 12, 2018) will inaugurate the new Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries in Burlington Gardens. With lead support from Art Fund, the exhibition is part of an unprecedented collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London. It will showcase the internationally-renowned visual artist and Royal Academician Tacita Dean who will explore the genre of landscape in its broadest sense.

The magnificent new Royal Academy Collection Gallery will present The Making of an Artist: The Great Tradition highlighting works from the RA Collection, including the ‘Taddei Tondo’ by Michelangelo and the RA’s almost full-size sixteenth century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, along with paintings by Reynolds, Kauffman, Thornhill, Constable, Gainsborough and Turner.

Selected by the President of the Royal Academy, Christopher Le Brun, it will focus on the first sixty years of the RA, juxtaposing masterpieces from the RA’s teaching collection with Diploma Works by past Royal Academicians. The display of the RA Collection has been supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation.

The Architecture Studio within The Dorfman Senate Rooms will provide a creative space that invites audience engagement with innovative and critical ideas on architecture and its intersection with the arts. It will open with Invisible Landscapes (May 19, 2018 to March 4, 2019), explored in three ‘Acts’ of immersive interventions looking at the impact of digital technology on society.

In contrast, recently conserved architectural casts on display in The Dorfman Architecture Court will convey the tradition of learning to draw from casts of buildings as used historically by students in the RA Schools.

Located at the entrance to the Weston Bridge, which connects Burlington Gardens to Burlington House, The Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery will stage site-specific installations by Royal Academicians. The first major work will be Tips for a Good Life by Bob and Roberta Smith RA (September 2018 – September 2019), on the subject of gender in the history of the RA.

Moving through to Burlington House, visitors will arrive at the Weston Studio. A changing contemporary series will bring the ethos and thinking of the RA Schools’ postgraduate programme to life with two displays a year and projects developed by students and graduates. It will open with Honeymoon, a group exhibition of works by first year students, revealing their rich use of subjects, approaches, methods and materials.

Going back in time, The Vaults will exhibit The Making of an Artist: Learning to Draw, a formidable selection of plaster casts from the early years of the RA Schools displayed together with works on paper from the RA’s teaching collection, illustrating the RA’s role in the teaching of art since the RA Schools’ foundation in 1769. Works will include anatomical casts and casts of antique sculptures, such as the Venus de Milo and Farnese Hercules, juxtaposed with recent works on related themes by RA Schools graduates.

Works on paper include a special display From The Child To The President about John Everett Millais PRA, who aged 11 started in the RA Schools where he was known as ‘The Child’. The restoration of the Vaults into a public route between the two buildings was supported by The Monument Trust.

Further interventions in Burlington House will include an installation of three-dimensional details from buildings designed by current architect Academicians. Curated by Spencer de Grey RA and displayed across a three-story vertical wall, it will celebrate the work of distinguished British architects (opens June 5).

Image: The Wohl Entrance Hall. Photo credit: Rory Mulvey.