The Royal Academy of Arts is an art museum that is housed in the magnificent Burlington House (and accessible from either Old Bond Street or the Burlington Arcade).
It is an independent institution that was founded by King George III in 1768 to promote British art, primarily through the Royal Academy’s training programmes which constitute the oldest art school in Britain. Past students include JMW Turner, Sir John Soane, William Blake, John Constable and Edwin Landseer.
It is privately funded, although the British government lets it use Burlington House rent-free.
What to see at Royal Academy of Arts
The gallery features a programme of art exhibitions that range from obscure artists to famous British and European artists including Michelangelo, Constable and Gainsborough.
To celebrate its 250th anniversary, a newly expanded campus was opened in May 2018, dubbed the New RA. A highlight is the RA Collection Gallery, a new exhibition space with highlights from the Academy’s permanent collection, which include Michelangelo’s Taddei Tondo and Giampetrino’s 16th-century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
The RA’s Architecture Studio is a permanent space for the Academy’s architecture, which includes both exhibitions and talks from prominent architects.
Temporary exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts
Most of the Royal Academy’s exhibition space is used for a vibrant programme of temporary exhibitions with several exhibitions running concurrently. Although some of these exhibitions are free, many of them, including the annual Summer Exhibition, incur an admission charge.
Current and planned temporary exhibitions include:
This exhibition (5 August–20 September 2020) features 80 of Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert’s distinctive works including many of this evocative portraits and scene of Ostend.
Gaugin and the Impressionists
The Gaugin and the Impressionists exhibition (7 August–18 October 2020) features 60 impressionist works from Denmark’s Ordrupgaard Collection including not only paintings by Paul Gaugin but also works by Degas, Manet, Monet, Pissarro and Renoir. £15
Visiting Royal Academy of Arts
Royal Academy of Arts is located in Burlington House off Piccadilly. The closest tube stations are Green Park and Piccadilly Circus, both a five-minute walk from the Royal Academy.
There is a wide range of exhibitions at the Royal Academy, both free and paid. The admission charge varies although most major temporary exhibitions cost £15 (£14 with a National Art Pass). Tickets for the Summer Exhibition cost £16 (£15 with a National Art Pass).
With the exception of the upper garden area in the Keeper’s House, all areas of the Royal Academy are wheelchair accessible. Audio guides (and transcripts of audio guides) are free for disabled visitors, tours are available in British Sign Language (BSL) for deaf visitors and audio described tours are available for blind and visually-impaired visitors. There is also a programme of events put on specifically for disabled visitors.
There are several bars, cafes and restaurants in the Royal Academy of Arts complex, although the restaurant and bars inside the Keeper’s House are restricted to Friends of the RA before 4pm.
Nearby attractions include Burlington Arcade, Clarence House and well-known West End shopping streets including Jermyn Street, Savile Row, New Bond Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street.