Raaa for the RA!

Be a Friend

The Royal Academy is entirely independent, receiving not a penny of government funding. Much of its income is derived from its pioneering and hugely successful Friend’s scheme. I do not think there is a more pleasurable or fulfilling thing to be than a friend of the Royal Academy. Part of my purpose in writing this blog is to urge you to think of becoming one yourself, if you aren’t already. You can follow @royalacademy here on Twitter.

A Friend can go free and as many times as they want to any RA exhibition. They are invited to the exclusive previews, they receive a quarterly magazine and have access to the Friends’ Rooms, specially set aside places where you can sit and sip and be calm and collected right in the heart of London.

When the heart-stoppingly astonishing Anish Kapoor exhibition was wowing record crowds last year many people became Friends just in order to beat the queues and because they wanted to go again and again, taking friends and family along with them. I think the same will happen when the forthcoming Degas and Hockney exhibitions open.

If you feel that materialistic Christmas presents have become a bore: more plastic and packaging, more meaningless “luxury goods”, more trivial nonsense and senseless frippery, then you cannot imagine, in my opinion, of a better gift this year than a Friendship of the Royal Academy. Whether the lucky recipient of your present pops in for an hour when next in London’s West End or whether they make a special day of it, there really is no finer thing to have in your wallet or purse than a Friend’s card.

In case you think this is coming across as a heavy sell… well, it is. I am passionate about the Royal Academy and think it stands for all the very best in British cultural life. Goodness knows I love dozens and dozens of other museums and galleries too, but I believe that there is something special about the RA and I hope you will too. There is nowhere else like it on earth and, like so many great national institutions, it is perhaps undercelebrated. If you want to give the gift of academy friendship, all the details are here.

As a trustee I leave the true art expertise to the academicians and to Chief Executive Charles Saumarez Smith and his team. As for matters fiscal, financial and fiduciary – with these I am not to be trusted. I have never learned the trick of being able to read accounts. My eyes swim and all intelligence and cognitive ability deserts me. But if I can persuade any of you who are good enough to follow me to befriend this wonderful institution then I have done you a favour and at the same time helped a place I love to continue in its marvellous work.

x Stephen

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9 comments on “Raaa for the RA!”

  1. nonoyesyes says:

    What a BRILLIANT idea! :)
    Loved the blog Stephen; thank you.

  2. Fryphile says:

    I adore what you have to say about art, especially the sting of uncertainty when it comes to interpretating what we see. Dear Donald Trefusis said something very similar in dongle-form about a year ago. Do you remember? Wise man, that Trefusis. It all reminds me of Steve Martin’s marvelously magnificent film “LA Story” and the scene when he’s extemporizing while looking at a painting. Pity Youtube is unable to offer the clip, but reliable and infallible IMDb has it in word form:

    “I like the relationships. I mean, each character has his own story. The puppy is a bit too much, but you have to over look things like that in these kinds of paintings. The way he’s *holding* her… it’s almost… filthy. I mean, he’s about to kiss her and she’s pulling away. The way the leg’s sort of smashed up against her… Phew… Look how he’s painted the blouse sort of translucent. You can just make out her breasts underneath and it’s sort of touching him about here. It’s really… pretty torrid, don’t you think? Then of course you have the onlookers peeking at them from behind the doorway like they’re all shocked. They wish. Yeah, I must admit, when I see a painting like this, I get emotionally… erect.”

    Turns out he’s looking at a painting of a red rectangle.

    I’d love to visit the Royal Academy if I’m ever Londoning again. Much love x

  3. Christine Pennock says:

    As I did Fine at for my degree I do love visiting the art galleries and exhibitions and I total agree with Alan Bennett that over every art gallery /institution should be displayed “You don’t have to like everything you see. I don’t personally believe all the twaddle that is written about works of art today. I think some of the pretentious twaddle puts people off. Just find what you like in the work of art . It could be just the Frame! so be it.

  4. tracey mitchell says:

    so my comments fallen into the eternal void of awaiting moderation again??? sheeese i didnt think i was that controversial, guess id b just as well giving up lol

  5. tmidir says:

    I think the Royal Academy certainly deserves support from wonderful people like yourself Mr Fry, but please everyone don’t forget about those less fortunate but more local places of art , culture and history that are often forgotten in the scrumdown for funding. It must be nice having so many cultural choices living in the metropolis of Londontown, but up in the cold wastes of the north, there are just as many wonderful, historic and inspiring institutions that also need support and appreciation. The focus is on money, but investing through just taking the time to visit an art gallery, historical site the theatre or a concert is in itself an investment that reaps its own rewards both for the observer and the institution visited. Art is a small word with a big meaning, it is what you experience it to be. So share the love and give your museum a hug as well.

  6. Avath says:

    It’s things like this that really, really made me wish I lived in London. As it happens, I do not live anywhere near London. Well, I live in Sweden so I guess I could be further away. You make it sound so damn romantic, Stephen, to wander up to this historical building to drink in the art of so many talented people. I see myself slowly walking from painting to painting admiring colours and details, wearing my favourite purple dress, with my hair tied back in a classic, yet relaxed, bun and a whimsical polka dot umbrella grasped in my hand. What would really happen is I would show up in my jeans with my torn up sneakers and my hair hanging lanky and wet over my (purple!) cardigan. I would strain to see anything, anything at all through the waterdrops on my glasses. I would slip and slide in my disgusting shoes, trying to get to the next painting and not just falling flat on my face and being the new live comic art attraction.

    But ahh. It’s in magnificent London, so even the wet and freezing fantasy sounds amazing.

  7. erin_vertizart says:

    Over here, in the land of Oz, we have a permanent exhibition in melbourne. Every time I need to get inspired I go and see a painting by Tom Roberts, called Madeame Pfund. The tonal values of the skin are amazing, and it always makes me want to paint. It would be wonderful if more creative characters such as yourself could get behind such things. There is nothing quite like discovering a technique to get you so excited that you feel like contributing to this wonderful world in some small way.

    Some of your shows have finally hit australian shores on free to air. Looking forward to seeing the show from the sydney opera house. Last Chance To See is also making its way.

    WOnderful to hear your thoughts as always Mr Fry. x

  8. erin_vertizart says:

    Completely off-topic Mr Fry, but I would very much like to say, having the means here to do so, that if you do glance across this comment… I am listening to Moab at the moment. And I have been umming and ahhing over writing my own piece, which involves the emotional side of a particular rare illness. I have to say, that hearing so many echoed sentiments within myself, through hearing that it feels as if I am taking part in a shared experience. And that feeling is very special and something you have created, and gives me an extra push to write my own piece, in the hope that someone else may feel that rush of inclusion that makes you catch your breath. Thank you for facilitating that, and creating something so moving and special.
    x erin.

  9. goldenfleece says:

    Dear Mr Fry,
    Am currently reading your lastest book and wanted to introduce you to a new word…you mentioned the words ádministration trivia”, i, have read off a fabulous Australian Blog, by the magnificent Mystic Medusa, the next word …”administrivia”..thought you might like that one..and PLEASE come back to Sydney, we didnt know you were here till we heard you were sold out (at the Opera House) .. what about a black cab round Australia ! get a bit of sun on and all..a warm Christmas? .. Very much enhoying the new book .. love the Golden Fleece xx

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