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What Is the Royal Academy of Arts?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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The Royal Academy of Arts is an independent art institution founded in London in the 18th century. It was established to allow British artists to assume a place on the global artistic stage, to provide a place for the exhibition of art from Britain and abroad, and to educate developing artists so their talent might be realized. The Royal Academy of Arts is governed by working British artists who are elected by their peers. It provides free education to its students, and is funded by admission fees, donations, and the proceeds of its annual Summer Exhibition. The Royal Academy’s galleries as well as its library and cafés can be visited by the public throughout the year.

King George III founded the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768. The purposes of establishing the academy were to encourage British artists to assert their presence in the wider artistic world, to provide a space in which art from Britain and abroad could be seen by the public, and to train promising artists so they could contribute to the nation’s artistic legacy. During the first century of its existence, the academy was housed in several different locations. In 1868, it moved to Burlington House, a former residential mansion located on Piccadilly Street in central London. As of late 2011, it continues to be based here.

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At the time of its founding, the Royal Academy of Arts had 34 members, each a working British artist. These members were responsible for establishing the direction of the academy and its school, and for mounting events such as exhibitions. As of the early 21st century, the academy continues to be steered by a community of prominent artists who are voted into membership by their peers.

One of the unique attributes of the Royal Academy of Arts is its independence. Unlike other major art institutions in Great Britain, the academy does not receive financial support from the government. Instead, it draws funding from fees charged for admission to its galleries as well as money spent in its gift shop and cafés, from private donations, and from the proceeds of sales made at its annual art show, the Summer Exhibition. A chief use of the funds raised by the academy is providing tuition-free education to the developing artists who attend its schools.

Members of the public can visit the Royal Academy of Arts throughout the year. In addition to a permanent collection of works by British artists, the academy’s galleries also usually feature one or more temporary exhibitions of work by major artists from many different countries and periods. Visitors can also patronize the academy’s cafés and its library, although entry to the library may require an appointment.

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