August 2016

A year on since the unveiling of the newly designed Academicians’ Room at the Royal Academy of Arts we caught up with Clare Taylor, Head of the Keeper’s House to find out how the revamped members’ club has fared over the last twelve months.

How did you first get involved with the Royal Academy of Arts? Have you always been interested in the arts?

I’ve been at the Royal Academy of Arts for just over 6 years now, and have been involved in the Keeper’s House since 2012.  Quite a change from years working in the media, but being involved in an arts institution that you are passionate about is always a great privilege.  Living close to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park when I was younger cemented my interest in the visual arts from an early age.

Your title is Head of the Keeper’s House; tell us about your day-to-day routine and what your role entails

No day is the same which is what is wonderful about the role; this can range from dealing with our loyal members who are made up of eminent individuals from the visual arts and creative industries or time spent with the Keeper’s House chefs and general manger Anthony Boyton developing concepts for the food & beverage offer right through to planning our eclectic member events programme.

The new-look Academicians’ Room has been open for a year now, tell us about the last 12 months

The membership of The Academicians’ Room, our private members club for artists and art lovers, has grown from strength to strength over the last 12 months; we’ve recruited some wonderful people not just within the visual arts, but film directors, actors, theatre directors and poets to name but just a few. We’ve just launched a new food menu too and the fish fresh off the boats from Cornwall is proving a hit with members.

How has the new design for the Academicians’ Room changed the function of the room?  

I think the MBDS vision for creating a bohemian ambience of an artist’s drawing room in the heart of Mayfair has transformed the club room and the recent success is due in large down to the beautiful interior design. We constantly get great feedback from new members as to how intimate and vibrant the space feels whether for a morning coffee, lunch or cocktail in the evening.

How is The Academicians’ Room different from other members’ clubs?

It’s a hidden gem in the heart of the Mayfair and London’s best kept secret! What’s really special about The Academicians’ Room is that we are part of the Royal Academy of Arts, and so the visual arts and access to the incredible exhibition programme are part of the DNA and membership. The next exhibition is a huge survey of Abstract Expressionism in the main galleries which everyone is excited about and a rare chance to see these works in the UK.   The fact that the Royal Academicians who govern the Royal Academy treat it as their home from home is also part of the ingredients for success and you can often find one of the UK’s leading artists or architects enjoying the space.

The Academicians’ Room hosts multiple events throughout the year for members, what can members look forward to this coming autumn/winter?

Our ‘On the Big Green Sofa’ series makes a return where we see Mary Nightingale, ITV journalist and broadcaster in conversation with eminent individuals from the creative industries.  Guests to date have included actress Maxine Peake and musician and composer Nitin Sawhney. This autumn we welcome dancer and choreographer Akram Khan to join us on the big velvet sofa.  September also sees us host DJ Slingshot who will be spinning some sweet soul sounds and old school house plus the welcome return of our popular Oyster and Champagne evenings.

For those who are not members of the club, are there any ways to experience the space?

We are always happy to give non-members a tour of the Keeper’s House and the club room as it’s a Grade II listed building with lots of original features, including red timber panels in the Academicians’ Room dotted with holes from years and years of the art hang.  The club room started life as an architectural gallery back in 1883.

Who would be your dream guest at the AR, living or dead?

Oscar Wilde

In your opinion, what is it about the RA that makes people come back time and time again?

Our heritage, the fantastic RA exhibition programme and the fact that we are often at the centre of the contemporary arts world and of course our Royal Academicians!

All interior photography © James McDonald
Portrait shot © John Nassari
The Academicians’ Room Burlington House, Piccadilly London, W1J OBD