Sunday, November 24, 2013

RA Summer Exhibition 2014 goes totally digital!

This is really important news for anybody who has ever wanted to submit artwork to the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art - but was deterred by the submission process.

This year the RA's Summer Exhibition entry process is GOING DIGITAL!
 As in it's not just the architecture and sculpture - ALL  submissions will in future be via digital entry.
Artists will only be able complete and submit their entry forms online via a dedicated website. During the online submission process, artists will be asked to upload digital photographs of their artworks.
READ ON to find out about:
  • a few tips from me - which are at the beginning to persuade you of the wisdom of reading on!
  • all you need to know at this stage regarding
    • timeline and key dates
    • how to enter
    • how to submit a query - not covered by FAQs
RA Summer Exhibition 2013
drawings, paintings and sculpture in just one of the Main Galleries (The Lecture Room)

Tips about Digital submission to the 2014 Summer Exhibition

I've written before about entering art competitions:

Below you can my tips for this exhibition - based on what I know about digital submission.

TIP #1:  Get you entry in as soon as possible after the digital submission starts on 6 January

  • Digital submission ALWAYS generates A LOT MORE ENTRIES than the normal hand-delivered entry system.  It's not ridiculous to estimate that it has the scope to at least double the number of entries.........
  • Which is why the RA have for the very first CAPPED the entries at 12,000.  This is a rounding of the normal number of entries they receive. In other words they've moved with the times in terms of converting to digital entry - but they're not prepared to tie the selection panel up for days on end if they get swamped with digital entries.

TIP #2: Digital is here to stay. Be prepared or prepare to fail.   
  • It's not optional.  Whether you like it or not it's become the standard method of eliminating those unlikely to make the first cut.
  • It's also a really great way of cutting down on a lot of handling costs for both organisers and artists. 
  • If you don't have a computer and the skills for doing photography and the knowledge of how to get the photo and application form completed online then you need to start finding somebody to help you now!

TIP #3: Make sure you have got a really excellent image of your work

  • Each image must not exceed 3MB and should be 150 dpi (dpi = dots per inch.  This is not the highest resolution but is perfectly acceptable for viewing online.  The images in this post are 72 dpi and 550 pixels wide)
  • Don't give selectors a really easy reason to reject your work e.g. the image is poor, too small, does not represent the work well.  Make sure the image is well lit, large and excellent - and conforms to the digital image criteria.
  • Don't overhype your work in order to get it pre-selected.  Chances are you might just end up with an expensive bill for getting the work to London and not being selected for the exhibition

TIP #4: Be clear on the dates and deadlines and get them marked up on your digital or paper format calendar now.  
  • This year you will be working to a completely different set of dates if you want to make sure your artwork has a chance of being selected!  
  • That means:
    • if you are to get your work in before the cap is employed you need to submit as soon as possible after 6th January.  
    • If you leave submission as late as the usual deadline you run a very big risk of not being able to submit in 2014 (see first tip above as to why!)

TIP #5: The standard of entry re. fine art prints and photos is very high.
  • Each year the standard of entry for photographs and fine art prints keeps getting better and better.  
  • I wish the same could be said for drawings and paintings - some are great and some are not so great!
RA Summer Exhibition 2013 - Some of the Fine Art Prints 

The new process for drawings, paintings and prints

While the application form has been submitted via a digital process for some time - the artwork still had to be delivered unless it was a sculpture or architectural piece. Artists with drawings, fine art prints, photographs or paintings still had to make sure their artwork arrived on the allotted day within the specified time period.

If that meant standing in the rain, you wrapped up your artwork and did just that!
The Academy acknowledges the support and interest that artists have shown for the exhibition in submitting their work in the past, but it is also aware of the huge efforts, physical as well as financial, which artists make on an annual basis to bring their work to the Academy for the selection process. It is clear that a growing number of artists would welcome a less arduous system of digital entry for the first round of judging.RA Letter to former Summer Exhibition Entrants

A new screening process

In 2014, there is going to be a first round screening process. What this means is:
  • Artists will submit digital photographs of their work online
  • The first 12,000 artworks submitted are eligible for entry on a "first come first served" basis. (That means it doesn't matter how much the selectors like your work, or how many times you've been selected before etc. If you don't get your artwork submitted as part of the first 12,000 you won't be able to enter!)
  • the selection panel will review the c.12,000 digital images (just as they have been doing for sculpture and architecture for a while)
  • the selection panel will produce a shortlist of 4,000 entries eligible to move forward to the second round. This much reduced number relates to the artwork which still has to be delivered to the RA for further scrutiny by the judges.

The 2014 Process - Timeline and how to enter

Key Dates

Submission - Round 1 - Screening of ALL ENTRIES via digital image
  • 6 January - RA opens brand new website for complete digital submission of entries i.e. complete submission of your online entry and digital images (this year you may not be making the trip to London!). Tasks include: 
    • open an online account
    • enter the details of your one or two artworks
    • upload digital images and
    • submit your completed entry PLUS the handling charge of £25 per work, payable online by credit or debit card.
    • (subsequently) monitor the progress of your entry
  • Midnight (GMT) 14 February 2014 - RA closes online entry (or EARLIER if more than 12,000 works have already been submitted? It's currently unclear whether the cap applies before or after the deadline for entries)
  • 17 March -  results of first round screening process (judging from digital images) Notification will be via email.

Submission - Round 2 - Screening delivered works on shortlist
  • Delivery of shortlisted works selected from digital images are pretty much the same sort of dates as before
    • 11 and 14 April - Works under glass
    • 15 and 16 April - Oils, acrylics and two dimensional works which are not under glass
    • 30 April - Sculpture
    • 1 May - Architecture
  • 2 May - Second round of judging of shortlisted works
  • 22 May - Announcement of the Final Selection 
  • Collection : 
    • 12 May – 6 June works not selected from shortlisted works
    • 22 May – 6 June works not selected for final hang

How to enter

You can:
To be notified by email when the entry form goes on sale, send an email to

Who can enter

Anybody can enter.  There is no upper or lower age limit. You don't have to live in the UK or be trained artist.

Specific queries

For specific questions on the process not answered in the FAQs document, you will need to email the RA Summer Exhibition Team at  Replies may take up to 14 days.

Summer Exhibition 2014

The 2014 Summer Exhibition takes place between 9 June – 17 August. It's the the largest open submission exhibition in the world. About 70% of the works hung are by non-Academicians



Julie Douglas said...

About time! I am glad to hear about this, thanks Katherine - for those living further away, the drop-off system is a nightmare and I hope that all the larger competitions adopt this system. I live in Belfast, and even the competitions that claim collection points all over the UK, don't include one for Northern Ireland!

Robert Cunnew said...

Katherine, thanks for stressing the need to apply early. I already had the deadline on my calendar; I've now added the January start date too. The 3 MB limit is quite generous but I'm sorry to see the RA has tried to set a DPI figure as well. To start with, to say photos must be 150 DPI is absurd; it's like saying they must be 2.73 MB. Presumably they mean this as a minimum. But in any case as far as I understand a DPI figure in this context is meaningless. Dots per inch, or pixels per inch, means something if you're talking about a printed photo, or a photo as it's displayed on a particular screen, both of which can be measured in inches, but otherwise what can it possibly mean? In my photo editor I can see a PPI figure but it's just calculated with reference to a notional picture size (in inches or cm) and you can move it up or down as you like and the software just adjusts the notional picture size to suit. Best just to ignore it I think.

Julie Douglas said...

me again! Robert - in response to some of Roberts comments on DPI etc. The first time I entered a competition digitally it was for the CPSA a few years ago. Their requirements were extremely specific, far more than outlined in the RA, so I printed the instructions and took my artwork to my wonderful printer, who understood instantly and scanned everything to the correct sizes etc. It took moments, and I was released from the strain of worrying about it! If you have a good printer with a good scanner, I recommend that as a failsafe avenue.

Ka Gray said...

Very interesting Katherine thank you. I also see that the Lynn Painters Stainers Prize is going completely digital too! I'm sure Stephen Farthing hinted at the Derwent Art Prize PV that the RA summer show was going digital.

Also the easiest way (I know of) to change the DPI of an image is through Photoshop.

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