If galleries want to be friends, they'll have to come with benefits

Plus: The curious incident of Luke Treadaway, the non-appearing Best Actor and I'm not a 'stakeholder' in this ugly use of English

Share

Not much has been made of a little ceremony at the Royal Academy
the other day. It was the "topping out" of the Keeper's House
project
. Perhaps it has been largely ignored because, unlike the
British Museum's announcement in the same week, it isn't about a
new gallery. No, the Keeper's House has been turned into a new
building for Friends of the Royal Academy.

I'm rather keen on Friends. I am one myself, both of the Royal Academy and the Tate. Joining helps the institutions financially, but let's not overdo the altruism. The point is it gets one a lot of perks, free passes to exhibitions, talks, magazines and most importantly a Friends' room. I can never understand why institutions don't have them. No names, but wouldn't the National Gallery make more money and more friends by having a Friends' organisation and room?

Tate Modern's room overlooks the river rather splendidly, as does the South Bank Centre's. Admittedly, at Tate Britain the Friends room is more akin to the Black Hole of Calcutta. But, at the Royal Academy, you have your own room and eating area in Piccadilly. Outside London there are also many fine examples, with places like the Lowry in Salford and Sage in Gateshead having VIP rooms for the use of Friends.

The new building at the Royal Academy, a £6.5m project by architect David Chipperfield, which opens in September, will double the size of the present Friends' quarters, with bar, restaurant, walled garden and wi-fi, to make it virtually a private club in the heart of London's West End. Setting it apart from other arts institutions in the country, it will be open from seven in the morning to late at night.

The speeches made at the topping-out ceremony were interesting too. Royal Academy president Christopher Le Brun said: "I want the Friends to be happy. I'm upset when I see queues for the loo." The president of the Royal Academy talking about queues for the loo? He has clearly been chatting to visitors, and realises that other factors come into a day's engagement with art.

And then there was renowned restaurateur Oliver Peyton, who will be in charge of the catering. He said that he would like to see the Royal Academy go further and open the galleries at night too. A man after my own heart. It is, of course, madness not to have art galleries open when most people can use them.

But the Royal Academy is on the right lines. It recognises that arts attenders want to feel part of a club, want to have a club at their favourite institution, want privileges, want to turn seeing paintings into an enjoyable and relaxing day out. Tate Britain too is soon to get rid of its Black Hole of Calcutta, and replace it with a spectacular space with views over the gallery's Rotunda. Everybody's at it. Galleries are realising there is more to seeing art than simply seeing art. We want to feel we belong, have a sense of ownership, and be guaranteed a comfortable and pleasurable experience.

There will come a time when we can say: "I'll meet you at my club, we can have drinks and lunch and afterwards look at some paintings." And it's not philistine to think that a long-overdue development.

The curious incident of the non-appearing Best Actor

Sometimes, theatres are a little less than honest with consumers. I was delighted to see Luke Treadaway win the Best Actor prize at the Olivier Awards for his performance in the National Theatre's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. But I wonder why the website for the Apollo theatre, where the show is on, does not mention that Luke does not appear on Mondays or Tuesdays. I know theatres like to talk in terms of companies, but we theatregoers do like to know if the actor of the year is actually appearing when we book our tickets. I hope that the estimable head of the National, Sir Nicholas Hytner, will have a word with the West End theatre to which it has transferred, and ask them to be a little more transparent with their audiences.

I'm not a 'stakeholder' in this ugly use of English

Whatever the rights or wrongs of Culture Secretary Maria Miller's call for the arts to show off the economic case for funding, she followed it with a definite linguistic crime. The ever-irritating, self-congratulatory, weekly news round-up from the Conservative Culture and Creative Industries Team announces that Ms Miller made her speech "to arts stake-holders." What an ugly phrase, and a worrying one too. The arts consists of artists, administrators and audiences. Enough with the stakeholders.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Advisor - £35,000 OTE

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Advisor is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor / Contact Centre Advisor

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the UK's leading accident an...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Web Hosting Support Agent

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading web hosting pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If teenagers were keen to vote, it could transform Britain

Peter Kellner
Crocuses bloom at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew  

From carpets of crocuses to cuckoos on the move, spring is truly springing

Michael McCarthy
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003