FEATURE9 August 2016

The art of insight

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The Royal Academy of Arts is nearly 250 years old, but its relationship with research began in earnest less than four years ago. Bronwen Morgan talks to the RA’s head of insight, Claire Clutterbuck, about her struggle to be heard.

In 2018, the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) will celebrate 250 years since its conception, when a group of artists lobbied King George III to recognise and promote art as a profession.

The academy is probably most famous for its Summer Exhibition – an annual event that showcases what the Royal Academicians (the practising artists elected to steer the academy) consider to be the best art at that time. Any artist can enter work into the Summer Exhibition, and everything is for sale.  

The RA is also well known for its location and elegant buildings – it has been based in Burlington House, in London’s Mayfair district, since 1867 – but many of the staff, including head of insight Claire Clutterbuck, are currently based in Unilever House, overlooking the Thames. This is because the academy is undergoing some expansion, linked to its impending landmark birthday. 

In 2001, it bought Burlington Gardens – a space that ...