Stephen Fry & Grayson Perry launch Royal Academy Club

by Richard Unwin

With a quiet flutter of modern British eccentricity, a sharp-suited Stephen Fry and floral dress-wearing Grayson Perry both spoke at the unveiling of plans for the new Keeper’s House development at London’s Royal Academy on 7th June. Set to open in spring 2013, the £5.7 million project will see a complete overhaul of existing Friends’ facilities, reserved for those paying an annual membership fee, with the addition of a basement restaurant and bar backing on to an existing garden.

According to Fry, both a Friend and Trustee of the Academy, the renovation will replace the current 1970’s polytechnic common room aesthetic with the atmosphere of a club for art lovers. The Academy itself hopes the transformation will attract a new intake of younger Friends who might join some of the current over 50s dominated membership in enjoying nighttime drinks and bar-based events after the main galleries have closed. For his part, Perry, a recently appointed Academician, said he was looking forward to getting drunk in the new surroundings. Perry was accompanied at the launch by ‘Red Alan’, a ceramic sculpture of his famed childhood teddy bear, Alan Measles, that the artist says will go on display in the Keeper’s House once work is completed.

Structural work on the Keeper’s House, which sits in the north eastern corner of Burlington House courtyard on Piccadilly, is being carried out by architects Long & Kentish, with interiors designed by architect Sir David Chipperfield. Oliver Peyton, whose company Peyton and Byrne already handle the catering at a number of prestige London sites, will manage the new restaurant. The work is part of a longer term plan to rejuvenate the entire Royal Academy site, with the next stage being to renovate 6 Burlington Gardens, a large space to the rear of the Academy, previously inhabited by commercial gallery Haunch of Venison.

Photos by Mark Blower
Courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London
Artist impressions © David Chipperfield Architects

Culture Article by Richard Unwin

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