The Royal Academy of Arts (RA) opened its new campus to the public on 19 May 2018 as part of the celebrations of its 250th anniversary.
Following a transformational £56 million redevelopment, designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Sir David Chipperfield CBE RA and supported by the National Lottery, the new RA opens up to reveal more of the elements that make it 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. From 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 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 support an exhibition programme of contemporary art and architecture.
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, 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 including the newly launched Executive Master in Cultural Leadership, and a range of classes for adult learners.
A new public route through the campus integrates 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, provide visitors with a greater insight into Britain’s longest established art school.
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, contribute to the nationally renowned significance of Burlington Gardens.
New Exhibition Spaces
Tacita Dean’s exhibition LANDSCAPE (19 May – 12 August 2018) inaugurates 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.
The magnificent new Royal Academy Collection Gallery 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.
The Architecture Studio within The Dorfman Senate Rooms provides a creative space that invites audience engagement with innovative and critical ideas on architecture and its intersection with the arts. Located at the entrance to the Weston Bridge, which connects Burlington Gardens to Burlington House, The Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery stages site-specific installations by Royal Academicians. Moving through to Burlington House, visitors arrive at the Weston Studio. Here 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.
Eat, shop and relax
New spaces to eat and drink include the Senate Room bar and 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 are located either side of the Burlington Gardens entrance. Other extensive improvements have been made across the campus to create new ticket desks and cloakrooms. The ground floor features a series of spaces designed to welcome visitors throughout the day. The Newsstand is open from 8am with art magazines, cards and stationery and news of what’s happening across the RA throughout the day. Also open from 8am is the Poster Bar, designed as a stop-off for visitors wanting a quick reviving coffee or snack – to eat in or takeaway.
Transforming the Royal Academy
The Royal Academy Development Trust has played a significant role in securing funding for the project. The redevelopment has been funded with a £12.7m grant from the National Lottery. Major support has also been received from a number of private individuals, including Mrs Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler, Ronald and Rita McAulay, The McLennan Family, The Mead Family Foundation, Mr and Mrs Robert Miller and Sir Simon and Lady Robertson, as well as trusts and foundations including the Blavatnik Family Foundation, The Cadogan Charity, Clore Duffield Foundation, the Dorfman Foundation, Dunard Fund, The Foyle Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Maurice Wohl Charitable Foundation, The Monument Trust, The Rothschild Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation. The RA also launched a public appeal to raise £3m which helped complete its transformative redevelopment and realise the ambitious plans for its 250th anniversary.