The Keeper’s House was built in the 1870s as the central London home of the Keeper of the Royal Academy – the person who is responsible for the Royal Academy Schools. The current Keeper, printmaker Eileen Cooper, has a private studio at the top of the refurbished Keeper’s house where she continues to work, while RA Friends and the general public can enjoy the new spaces downstairs. Award-winning architects Long & Kentish have produced a sensitive restoration of a charming suite of rooms, with attractive interior design by David Chipperfield.
In common with many galleries and museums these days, the refurbishment of the Keeper’s House recognises the need to provide enhanced visitor facilities, as well as additional income streams for an organization which receives no public subsidy. In keeping with the elegant interior spaces of the main rooms of the Royal Academy, the Keeper’s House has been sensitively restored, with polished wood floors and a colour scheme which draws inspiration from historic colour charts, and from the art which is produced and displayed at the RA.
Friends may enter the Keeper’s House via the existing Friends’ Room – the Sir Hugh Casson Room. This space has also been refurbished, offering a café-style area for members, while the Belle Shenkman Room across the hallway and up a short flight of stairs is a quiet sitting room.
A stone staircase leads down into the new area: a dining room with walls painted an intimate dark green and adorned with architectural casts from the RA Collection, a groovy cocktail bar in hot red, and an outdoor oasis, complete with exotic tree ferns and a sculpture by Michael Craig-Martin. Art by Royal Academicians, including Grayson Perry and Tracy Emin, adorn the walls of all the rooms in the Keeper’s House, providing a lively and changing display.
The Keeper’s House is open to the general public from 4pm daily and visitors enter via the main courtyard. In keeping with the current trend to provide an “add on” to the exhibition experience, the restaurant and bar are open in the evenings, offering a menu inspired by British food and an imaginative range of cocktails. These new spaces represent an elegant and fashionable modernisation to the Royal Academy.