Royal Academy of Arts | activities


An early RA Summer Exhibition at the Academy's original home in Somerset House

Charitable status

Christopher Le Brun, president of the RA, on "Varnishing Day", or the artists' opening of the Summer Exhibition, 2015

The Royal Academy does not receive financial support from the state or the Crown. Its income is from exhibitions, trust and endowment funds, receipts from its trading activities, and from the subscriptions of its Friends and corporate members. It also gains funds by sponsorship from commercial and industrial companies, in which the Academy was one of the pioneers.

Permanent collection and loans

One of its principal sources of revenue is hosting a programme of temporary loan exhibitions. These are comparable to those at the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery and leading art galleries outside the United Kingdom. In 2004 the highlights of the Academy's permanent collection went on display in the newly restored reception rooms of the original section of Burlington House, which are now known as the John Madejski Fine Rooms.


Under the direction of the former exhibitions secretary Norman Rosenthal, the Academy has hosted ambitious exhibitions of contemporary art. In its 1997 "Sensation," it displayed the collection of work by Young British Artists owned by Charles Saatchi. The show was controversial for its display of Marcus Harvey's portrait of Myra Hindley, a convicted murderer. The painting was vandalised while on display.

In 2004, the Academy attracted media attention for a series of financial scandals and reports of a feud between Rosenthal and other senior staff. These problems resulted in the cancellation of what were expected to have been profitable exhibitions.[5] In 2006, it attracted the press by erroneously placing only the support for a sculpture on display, and then justifying it being kept on display.[6]

Summer exhibition

The Academy also hosts an annual Royal Academy summer exhibition of new art, which is a well-known event on the London social calendar. In the 21st century it is considered less fashionable than in earlier centuries, and has been largely ignored by the Brit Artists and their patrons.[citation needed] But, Tracey Emin exhibited in the 2005 show. In March 2007 Emin accepted the Academy's invitation to become a Royal Academician, commenting in her weekly newspaper column that, "It doesn't mean that I have become more conformist; it means that the Royal Academy has become more open, which is healthy and brilliant."[7]

Anyone who wishes may submit pictures for inclusion in the summer exhibition; those selected are displayed alongside the works of the Academicians. Many of the works are available for purchase.

Friends programme

In 1977 Sir Hugh Casson founded the Friends of the Royal Academy, a charity designed to provide financial support for the institution. Over the years the Friends scheme has grown in size and importance and by 2017 had more than 100,000 members.

Literary collaborations

Pin Drop Studio hosts live events where well-known authors, actors and thinkers read a short story chosen as a response to the main exhibition programme. The literary evenings are hosted by Pin Drop Studio founder Simon Oldfield. Guests have included Graham Swift, Sebastian Faulks, Lionel Shriver, William Boyd, Will Self, Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Sian Phillips, Lisa Dawn and Ben Okri.

The RA and Pin Drop Short Story Award is an open submission writing prize, held annually along similar principles of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The award ceremony features a live reading of the winning story in its entirety by a special guest. Past winning stories have been read by Stephen Fry, Dame Penelope Wilton, Juliet Stevenson and Gwendoline Christie.[8]

Sponsorship programme

Regular sponsorship income comes from exhibitions and sponsorship of specific programmes.

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