Friends of the Royal Academy (1)

This week we are celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the Friends of the Royal Academy, which was, and remains, the bulwark of its funding.   There were precedents.   Les Amis du Louvre had been established in 1897 and the National Art-Collections Fund not long afterwards, originally as a way of providing acquisition funds for the National Gallery.   Sir Sydney Cockerell founded the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1909 in order to acquire works of art by purchase as well as gift.   Then there was a long lull until the Friends of the Tate Gallery was established in 1957 and the Friends of the British Museum in 1968.   But we like to think that the Friends of the Royal Academy is the first large-scale, democratic Friends’ organisation which exists not just to support purchases, but the institution as a whole.   We could not exist without them.

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6 thoughts on “Friends of the Royal Academy (1)

  1. marinavaizey says:

    I think The Art Fund was 1903, and the Contemporary Art Society which bought contemporary art directly – first Henry Moore to enter the Tate, I believe – in 1910.

  2. Toshio Kusamitsu says:

    Although I cannot help in telling you about the history of the friends of so and so, I must say that when I was still a student living in London in the early 80s I became a friend of the RA and using the friends’ room and benefitting from the reduction of entrance fees etc., the advantage and privilege I enjoyed so much. I was also a friend of the Royal Opera House (or is it the friends of Covent Garden?) at that time. I assume that there was no such organisation in Japan then, and I envied the system of support for cultural activities in the UK.

  3. helenreesleahy says:

    Marina’s dates are, of course, spot on! And in this, as in so many matters, the great innovator was Wilhelm von Bode in Berlin. Strapped for cash (or at least, the means to realise his curatorial ambitions in a tricky art market) he created the Kaiser Friedrich Museums Verein in 1894. Museum history has it that this was the first such organisation of private supporters, and I believe they’re still going strong. Certainly, the founders of the NA-CF (as then was) in 1903 were well aware of the Berlin initiative.

    The history of the Friends of the RA would make a lovely PhD project – are there archives? Perhaps not, hence your request for information?

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