The Jillian and Arthur M. Sackler Wing of Galleries, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Opened June 10, 1991 by Queen Elizabeth II, the Jillian and Arthur M. Sackler Wing of Galleries was an historic landmark for the Royal Academy of Arts. Designed by Norman Foster Associates, their ingenious solution to the Academy’s need for fully equipped modern exhibition galleries and improved public access and circulation, is equalled by sensitivity to the original 18th century and 19th century design and fabric of Burlington House. The Sackler Wing consists of three galleries for temporary loan exhibitions, a sculpture gallery to display work by Royal Academicians and a special gallery for the Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo.

The Royal Academy in London was established under Royal Charter from King George III in 1768. The United Sates was still a colony, and American Benjamin West was the second President of the RA (Sir Joshua Reynolds being the first). The Academy consisted of the leading artists and architects of the day who were invited to join and submit one or more “Diploma” works, which form the RA art collection, including works by Constable, Turner and modern masters such as Hockney and Gormley. Sir Hugh Casson (PRA 1976 to 1984) met Arthur and Jillian Sackler in 1982 at the Edinburgh Festival, where Jillian was chair of the International Committee, and Arthur was sponsoring a conference on Museums in the 21st Century. Sir Hugh invited them to lunch at the RA to see the old Diploma Galleries, at the top of Burlington House, which he wanted to modernize and introduce air conditioning, humidity control and good lighting. They declined unless access could be improved. Foster rang Sackler to say there was a gap of 15 feet between the Georgian and Victorian buildings, and he could build a “wing” between, with a glass elevator and “floating” staircase. Sackler suggested using the pediment of the Victorian building for a sculpture ledge, which would widen the Gallery at eye level, and Foster immediately agreed to the improvement.

The former Diploma Galleries, stripped back to the original brickwork, were completely remodelled. A uniform floor-level was established improving access and circulation around the galleries, and the Victorian grills removed. Full environmental controls, a prerequisite for major international loan exhibitions, were installed to control temperature and humidity levels and air movement. The old galleries have been transformed into an elegant exhibition space in which the safe conservation of even the most fragile works of art can be guaranteed.

Due to Sackler’s untimely death, his widow went ahead with the project. The Sackler Wing of Galleries was named “Building of the Year 1992” by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Visiting Hours

Opening Hours

Saturday – Thursday: 10am – 6pm
(last admission to galleries 5.30pm)

Friday: 10am – 10pm
(last admission to galleries 9.30pm)

Ticket Office open
Saturday-Thursday: 10am – 5.30pm  Friday: 10am – 9.30pm

Opening times for the John Madejski Fine Rooms may vary

Easter weekend 2014 opening times
Friday 18 April: 10am – 6pm
Saturday, Sunday and Monday: Open as usual 10am – 6pm

For more information please call 020 7300 8000

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