The British Institution was a private 19th-century society in London formed to exhibit the works of living and dead artists; it was also known as the Pall Mall Picture Galleries or the British Gallery. Unlike the Royal Academy it admitted only connoisseurs, dominated by the nobility, rather than practicing artists to its membership, which along with its conservative taste led to tensions with the British artists it was intended to encourage and support. In its gallery in Pall Mall the Institution held the world's first regular temporary exhibitions of Old Master paintings, which alternated with sale exhibitions of the work of living artists; both quickly established themselves as popular parts of the London social and artistic calendar. From 1807 prizes were given to artists and surplus funds were used to buy paintings for the nation.
The British Institution was founded in June 1805 by a group of private subscribers who met in the Thatched House Tavern in London. A committee was formed, and in September of that year it purchased the lease of the former Boydell Shakespeare Gallery building at 52 Pall Mall, with 62 years remaining, for a premium of £4,500 and an annual ground rent of £125. The British Institution opened at the Pall Mall site on 18 January 1806.
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