The Royal Academy of Arts in London, a prestigious institution that oversees art schools and mounts a closely watched exhibition program, made a historical announcement on Tuesday night: after more than 250 years, the institution finally has its first female president.
Rebecca Salter will be the next president of the Royal Academy, making her the first woman to hold the high-ranking post at the institution since it was founded in 1768. She will succeed Christopher Le Brun, who stepped down from the role in September after eight years.
In a statement, Salter said it is a “tremendously exciting time” to take the helm at the artist-led institution. “I look forward to working with my fellow Academicians, our staff, and our many supporters to help the RA to evolve while keeping art, architecture, and debate at the heart of what we do.”
The RA president is elected in a secret ballot voted by the Royal Academicians, and the outcome must be approved by the reigning monarch. Salter’s appointment follows the RA’s anniversary project, an expansion that costs more than $70 million and has been a decade in the making.
Axel Rüger, the RA’s new chief executive and the former director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, said in a statement that he is “delighted” by Salter’s election. “With a long career as a respected artist, and an in-depth knowledge of the Royal Academy through her position as Keeper, Rebecca will bring a wealth of experience to the role. I look forward to working with her,” he said.
Salter was elected a Royal Academician in 2014 as a printmaker. In 2017, she became the Keeper of the Royal Academy, which involves overseeing the RA’s art schools. Before joining the RA, she had been an associate lecturer for the M.A. printmaking course at Camberwell College of Art in London.
She is best known as painter and printmaker, having studied traditional woodblock printing at Kyoto City University of the Arts in Japan. She has exhibited in the U.K. and abroad, and was the subject of a mid-career survey exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art, Connecticut, in 2011. Her work is held in in museum collections including Tate and the British Museum.