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Royal Academy unveils £5.7m Refurbishment plan to pamper Friends : RowlandsModernArt.com
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Royal Academy unveils £5.7m Refurbishment plan to pamper Friends

| June 10, 2012 | Comments

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Being a Friend of the Royal Academy means putting up with facilities akin to a 1970s polytechnic staff room, Stephen Fry said, as the organisation revealed £5.7m plans to improve facilites for its 94,000 friends.

The RA has the third biggest friends scheme in the world. It is a private organisation with no public funding.

RA president Christopher Le Brun admitted the recent and enormously successful David Hockney exhibition exposed weaknesses.

The academy bills the facilities as “an oasis of calm at the heart of London”, but Fry, a friend and trustee, said: “Where friends go is a bit like a 1970s polytechnic staff room. They can sit down and have a cup of coffee but we think they deserve so much more.”

Chief executive Charles Saumarez Smith said of one of the RA’s two current rooms for friends, the Belle Shenkman: “It took me a long time to dare to go in to it, I was never quite sure who it was for.”

As part of the plans, that room and the Sir Hugh Casson room will be refurbished. The RA plans to double the space available for friends by renovating the Keeper’s House, a space to the right of the front entrance which was where a keeper once lived full-time to look after the buildings and lock all the doors at night.

Saumarez Smith said the main motivation was to improve facilities for existing friends, not to radically change the numbers. They wanted to return the space “to the atmosphere of a private house”, and key to that was opening up space in the basement which was once “rather squalid office space”. It is being redesigned, refurbished and refitted to create a new dining room and a garden bar.

Fry said the RA was “one of the most exciting places to visit in London” and they wanted to create a club-like atmosphere in the centre of the capital.

“You don’t have to go to the Groucho Club, you don’t have to watch a comedian vomiting in the corner, you don’t have to feel you’re in this Soho, boho world,” he said.

The RA plans to open the new spaces in spring 2013. Architects Long Kentish will lead the renovations, while architect David Chipperfield will renovate the interiors and Oliver Peyton will upgrade the restaurant.

The reopening will feature work by Grayson Perry, and Le Brun promised new exhibitions by academicians and possibly from the RA collection.

The Keeper’s House project is the first step in the RA’s bigger plan to develop its two-acre central London site, which will see building work go on from now until its 250th anniversary in 2018, including a link to and the use of 6 Burlington Gardens, a building that was formerly the Museum of Mankind.

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Category: Art News