London’s Royal Academy Opens Its Historic Life Drawing Room to the Public

Free classes in the historic school and a life-drawing show featuring VR and Iggy Pop nudes help mark the RA's 250th anniversary.

Jeremy Deller, Iggy Pop Life Class. Organized by the Brooklyn Museum, February 21, 2016. Photo: Elena Olivo, ©Brooklyn Museum.

London’s Royal Academy of Arts (RA) is is marking its 250th anniversary year in 2018 early, up close, and personal, opening its historic life drawing room to the public and offering 250 free life-drawing classes. The move accompanies the opening on Monday, December 11, of a life-drawing show with a difference. 

The Royal Academy has famously run life-drawing classes since it was founded in 1768. The independent, artist-run institution also boasts the longest established fine art school in the UK.

The free classes promise to give participants the historic art-school experience inside a purpose-built 19th-century life-drawing studio space, filled with antique casts still used as teaching aids. The classes, which will be led by surprise guest tutors, are offered first to Academicians and life-drawing affiliates. However, 50 places are up for grabs in a ballot that is open to the public.

Male torso, 19th century. Photo courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Meanwhile, the show “From Life”, which opens today (until March 11, 2018) traces the history of life drawing from the 18th century to the present. On show are historic paintings by artists, such as Johann Zoffany and contemporary works, such as Jeremy Deller’s Iggy Pop Life Class (2016), which were created at the Brooklyn Museum. Also on show are experimental works uses cutting-edge VR technology.

Spread over the RA’s Sackler Wing and Tennant Gallery, the show features works such as Cai Guo-Qiang’s film One Thousand Youngsters Drawing David (2010), imaginary future self-portraits by Gillian Wearing, as well as work by other Academicians such as Antony Gormley, Chantal Joffe, and Michael Landy.

©Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

“In a sense, ‘From Life’ embodies what an artist-run academy was, is, and might become,” said Tim Marlow, the academy’s artistic director, of the experimental project.

Elsewhere, artists have experimented with VR technologies, and you can delve into architect Farshid Moussavi’s world of ecclesiastic architectural gems, Yinka Shonibare’s 3D rendering of a neo-classical painting, or Humphrey Ocean’s virtual studio environment where audiences can create their own three-dimensional sketches. Jonathan Yeo’s VR work, a big cast of his own head, is the first free-standing metal sculpture made using Google’s Tilt Brush.

From Life” is on at The Royal Academy of Arts Between December 11, 2017 – March 11, 2018.

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