Royal Academy Contemporary Circle: The Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005

In 2005 Susie Allen devised and first chaired a new Contemporary Patrons Group for the Royal Academy of Arts in London.


The Royal Academy's Contemporary Exhibition Programme, under its then curator Sir Norman Rosenthal, was recognised as a key contributor in the museum world to the international dialogue on Contemporary Art. The Royal Academy was attracting some of the top contemporary artists and architects. The timing felt right, until 2005 the RA did not have a Patrons Programme dedicated to contemporary art and Susie Allen understood that a group focused on contemporary art would fill this void and create a dynamic, friendly and interactive platform that was a leader of its kind. It was also to provide the blueprint for the future Patrons Programme across the RA including the setting up of a Young Patrons Group. 


For the launch of this new Contemporary Patron's Group, Susie asked her team at Artwise to help curate an ambitious opening event that would promote the RA's position as both a contemporary and historical institution and encourage patrons' active involvement in contemporary art. We organised a one-night extravaganza event of films and installations by established and (then) emerging artists, arranging special loans from artists and galleries worldwide. The evening was held in the spectacular setting of the Royal Academy's Burlington Gardens building and included works from leading international artists such as Tony Oursler, Anri Sala, Fischli & Weiss, Christian Marclay, Pipilotti Rist and provided the debut UK previews of works by Jesper Just and Mika Rottenberg. 


During Susie's tenure are Chair, she organised, with the help of her team at Artwise, Patron Group visits and trips to: China (the first ever trip by a UK museum group), Singapore, Amsterdam, Sweden and Denmark, Rotterdam, Germany for Documenta, Münster Sculpture Project and Dusseldorf and Berlin for the Biennial, Italy for Luci d’Artista in Turin and the Venice Biennale and in the UK to Scotland, Margate, Wakefield, the Folkstone Triannual and the Liverpool Biennial. During these trips we organised bespoke and special private tours to museums, artist studios, galleries, sculpture parks and also incorporated visits to contemporary and iconic architectural sites.


For the Patron Group we also organised studio visits to: Ai Weiwei, Zhang Huang, Zeng Fanzhi, Tony Cragg, Langlands & Bell, Tracey Emin, Julian Schnabel, Conrad Shawcross, Idris Khan, Annie Morris, Callum Innes, Peter Blake, Richard Wilson. 


In addition to organising trips and studio visits we also established a forum for debate in the form of ‘Balcony Suppers’. These events were inspired by Salons and evoked lively discussions and debates held over dinner in the RA obliquely linked to a current exhibition. Themes were varied and guest speakers were invited from diverse backgrounds such as philosophy, science, engineering and art. 


Participating Artists:


Tracey Emin Rose Finn-Kelcey Christian Jankowski
Jesper Just Thomas Köner Svetlana & Igor Kopystiansky
Christian Marclay Mike Marshall Karen Mirza & Brad Butler
Tim Noble & Sue Webster Matthew Noel-Todd Tony Oursler
Simon Patterson Pipilotti Rist Mika Rottenberg
Anri Sala Sofia Tillberg Studio Troika
William Wegman