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Monet exhibition to open all night All-night finale at Monet exhibition

THE ROYAL Academy of Arts in London is to stay open all night tonight - the first time that a gallery in Britain has allowed round-the-clock access.

The marathon 34-hour opening - from 8am today to 6pm tomorrow - marks the end of the blockbusting "Monet in the 20th Century" exhibition.

However, anyone hoping that by pitching up in the middle of the night they will be able to view the paintings in peace will be in for a shock. More than 5,000 tickets have already been pre-booked for the time slots between 10pm tonight to 8am tomorrow and a further 3,000 will be available on the door. For those wanting to secure a last-minute ticket, the least popular period is likely to be between 1am and 6am.

The show includes paintings of the gardens and lily pond at Monet's home in Giverny, plus views of Venice and the Thames. More than 8,000 people a day have visited the exhibition, an estimated total of 750,000, the highest attendance at an exhibition in Britain. Tickets have been sold for pounds 9 each - the highest admission price ever to be charged.

A spokeswoman for the academy said: "I'm a little bit surprised by the interest in 24-hour opening, but people are aware that if they book they will definitely get to see the exhibition. I think there's a chance that it will sell out. It will be interesting to see whether there is a queue at 3am."