Recently, the Friends were treated to a fascinating talk by Andrea Tarsia, Head of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, who was in Wellington to share his experience with Te Papa’s art team.

Andrea outlined some of the highlights of the Royal Academy’s history, which was first founded in December 1768 to promote the arts of design in Britain through education and exhibition. Joshua Reynolds was the first president.

Now housed in Burlington House, Piccadilly, The Royal Academy is a unique institution as it is owned and run by its members, all of them practising artists. Known as the Royal Academicians, they include many of Britain’s greatest living artists: painters, architects, sculptors, designers, printmakers and engravers. The RA’s exhibitions and collecting practice have always focused on contemporary British art, so the collections are rich with works that reflect the history of British art.

Since 1769, the Academy has held a hugely popular Summer Exhibition, which is open to all artists, not just members. As in the traditional ‘salon’ shows, the walls are crammed with paintings, and crowds flock in to see and be seen, and of course to buy.

Like Te Papa, the RA is undergoing a massive renewal project, in preparation for its 250th birthday in 2018. Behind Burlington House, Burlington Gardens is being transformed into exciting new exhibition spaces, designed by RA architect David Chipperfield.

If you are in London next year, do visit. But you might like to wait until the English autumn, when the Academy is to have a major Oceania exhibition, including some special taonga from Te Papa.