The Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Arts is rather like an order of knights for the art world – one of the most important galleries in London for emerging artists and those interested in them. Founded in 1768 by King George III, there’s room around the proverbial table for 80 elected Academicians – sculptors, architects, printmakers and painters – who must be professionally active in Britain. Past Academicians include Sir Joshua Reynolds (its first president), Constable, Gainsborough and Turner; current members include Peter Blake, Norman Foster, David Hockney, Elizabeth Blackadder, Anish Kapoor, and, since 2007, Tracey Emin.
Academicians’ privileges include choosing its major loan exhibitions (recently featuring such art stars as John Singer Sargent, Van Gogh and Schiele), curating the famous Summer Exhibition (plus tickets to its society party), and of course hanging their own masterpieces. And with the RA’s architectural pedigree, the building itself is a work of art (and a welcome sanctuary, set back from Piccadilly) – built in 1668 for the Earl of Burlington, it’s since been embellished by numerous Academicians including Sidney Smirke (who with his brother designed The British Museum) and Lord Foster, Knight of modern London.
The Royal Academy of Arts in recent years has put on some real blockbuster shows and with the impending launch of their new Burlington Wing, on the site of the old Museum of Mankind, will see the building almost double in size.