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Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy of Arts (often shortened to the ‘Royal Academy’ or just the RA) is an institution which has been run by artists since 1768, combining a mission to teach art with exhibition spaces, a permanent collection, an archive, and events for the public. Permanent exhibitions, including the annual Summer Exhibition of contemporary art, can be extremely busy, so book your tickets ahead to skip the lines.
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Royal Academy of Arts

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Visit the Royal Academy and explore the cradle of British art
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Top Tips

1. The gallery’s temporary exhibitions are usually extremely popular and it’s best to arrive first thing in the morning, especially at the weekends.
Royal Academy Exhibition | Photo: Forgemind ArchiMedia - CC BY 2.0
2. Consider taking one of the many tours on offer - from guided tours of the current exhibition to special behind-the-scenes looks at artists’ studios, the RA archives, or parts of the collection not currently on display, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Royal Academy Of Arts | Photo: John Mitchell - CC BY 2.0
3. All of the artwork on display has been selected by artists, for artists. In order to be a Royal Academician you have to be a working artist, nominated by at least 30 of your peers, and its the Royal Academicians who teach students, plan exhibitions and run the RA.
4. Look out for special seasonal events! In addition to the annual Summer Exhibition, there’s also the Festival of Ideas, which includes talks by artists from different disciplines, and discussions and debates on current topics having an impact on artists.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

General Information

Opening Hours:

Exhibitions at the Royal Academy are open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, except on Fridays when they close at the later time of 10 pm. The cafés and shops open both earlier and later, depending on the date and any events.

Tickets:

Entry to the Royal Academy of Arts is free of charge, though some exhibitions and events may carry a separate charge.

Address:

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House
Piccadilly
London, W1J 0BD

How to get there:

The closest London Underground stations are Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines), Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly, and Victoria lines), Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central, and Victoria lines), and Bond Street (Central and Jubilee lines). There are two bus stops nearby which are extremely convenient. Regent Street/St. James’s is served by routes 12, 88, 94, 453, N3 or N15, or Old Bond Street (Royal Academy) is served by routes 6,14, 19, 38, N19, N38 or N97.
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