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.