The barriers do appear to be breaking down. In September, the heart of the avant garde in the form of Charles Saatchi's collection of the best of young British artists is coming to the main Royal Academy galleries as the highlight of the autumn season. But Max Mosscrop, 34, winner of the country's most lucrative art prize, the pounds 26,000 NatWest Award, said the Royal Academy was never that stuffy anyway. "There is a real breadth of work here and always has been," he said.
Tradition runs strongly none the less. Yesterday Thom Winterburn, 27, was proudly surveying the make-up wounds in the gory photographs which form part of his final show, but he admitted the pounds 5,000 Royal Society of Portrait Painters' Ondaatje Gold Medal that he won was as conventional as honours come. It leads to commissions, he said, "but you are painting dogs, wives and daughters".