What’s there to see at the Royal Academy of Arts?There are a handful of permanent exhibitions at the Royal Academy, each of which focuses on a different element of arts education. Collectively known as The Making of an Artist, one highlights Architecture, one showcases how the RA used to teach students to draw, and one asks whether you should learn to be an artist by studying nature or the great art of the past. All exhibitions include original artwork, alongside casts and replicas. The most precious piece of artwork in the permanent collection is the Taddei Tondo, a circular marble carving by Michelangelo and the only of his marbles to be exhibited in the UK. The RA is home to a range of temporary exhibitions throughout the year with a range of themes, plus the Summer Exhibition for contemporary artwork. Current and upcoming exhibitions include The Renaissance Nude, Lucien Freud: The Self-Portraits, and Eco-Visionaries.
Why is it called the Royal Academy?The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in 1768 as a result of a personal act by King George III. This had been prompted by the efforts of the architect Sir William Chambers and the portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, both of whom had a personal connection to the king. Its mission was to combine a location for arts education - with lectures from contemporary artists running throughout its history - with spaces for exhibits and art sales, a combination which set it apart from other societies of the time whose tendency was either to exhibit art or to be an art academy. It ran its first summer exhibition of contemporary art in 1769, a tradition which continues to this day. The Royal Academy celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2018 with the unveiling of a refurbished space which allows the Academy to exhibit more of its collection all year round, plus a lecture theater, a public project space for students and a bridge which links the two neighboring buildings that house it. Although the Academy has royal patronage, it doesn’t receive any financial support from the State or the Royal Family, earning its keep from exhibitions, subscriptions from members, and sponsors from the corporate world.
How long will it take to visit the Royal Academy?The average visit to the Royal Academy (when visiting an exhibition as well as the permanent displays) takes between 2 and 3 hours. If you’re visiting during an extremely busy period then you may need to take longer to see everything, or you might enjoy a meal or a drink in one of the RA’s cafés or restaurants and linger in the area.
Will my children enjoy a trip to the Royal Academy of Arts?In general, exhibits at the RA aren’t curated with children in mind. However, there are a few things the Academy has developed to help children enjoy a trip. Art Detective sketchbooks and activity packs are available for free from the entrance to the exhibition or from the reception, giving children a little bit of information about what they’re seeing and inviting them to imagine the works from the artists’ point of view. The packs can also be downloaded at home. For smaller children, there are chameleons hidden throughout the Collections displays with child-friendly information. During the school holidays, there are free events for children and families, and a range of other family-friendly events take place throughout the year. Check the Royal Academy of Arts website for more details ahead of your visit.