Artists rally behind RA's former keeper as cash inquiry goes on

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The Independent Online

Artists taught by an academic under investigation over financial irregularities at the Royal Academy Schools have rallied to his defence.

Artists taught by an academic under investigation over financial irregularities at the Royal Academy Schools have rallied to his defence.

A group of recent graduates from the art school of the Royal Academy have named Brendan Neiland, its former head or keeper, as the figurehead of their informal coalition.

To illustrate what they say was his inspirational leadership during six years in charge of the venerable institution they are staging a show of their paintings at the Jerwood Space in London next month, where he will be the star guest. It will be his first public appearance since the allegations that led to his resignation last summer.

The Royal Academy informed the police and announced an internal investigation after he was found to have set up an unauthorised bank account and it emerged that a pattern of transactions involving £80,000 were not properly documented.

Although Professor Neiland is not able to discuss the investigation, he is expected to speak at the formal opening of the show, entitled Bold and Radical or RAdical Art: New Painting from the Royal Academy Schools.

Natasha Kissell, who is curating the show with her fellow former RA colleague Peter Harrap, said: "Hopefully it will be an exciting showcase of what he enabled us to paint. The Royal Academy is quite a fusty institution and can be a bit sleepy but when he came in, he totally turned the whole place around. Although there was some exciting painting going on before, he brought a new lease of life and cleaned out of the cobwebs. The art world eagerly awaits his speech in which he will reflect on his time at the RA."

Six artists, including the two curators, are showing their works in the exhibition from 17 February to 13 March, although others were involved in the group, she said.

Professor Neiland said it was "very touching indeed" that the students had leapt to his defence.

He said he had spent six "wonderful" years at the Schools, where the staff and students were excellent. "I'm really pleased that they have all of them achieved so much. The success of that group in the last three or four years is absolutely extraordinary."

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