Friday, February 01, 2008

How to Enter the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Drawing a head - Three Perspectives of Ben
pen and pigment ink, 18" x 15"

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition is the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world. Last week, the Royal Academy posted details of how to enter the 2008 Summer Exhibition on its website.

Up to 13,000 people will send in work in March and April for review by the Selection Committee. From this about 1,200 works will be selected for the exhibition which will then be filmed by the BBC (for the Culture Show) and viewed in person by about 200,000 people between 9 June and 17 August 2008. Just prior to the opening, it takes 4 days just to do the Private Views for the artists, invited guests and and RA Friends (which includes me!). A few lucky people will then share the £70,000 worth of prizes.

The Summer Exhibition is not like other exhibitions. You first have to register and pay a handling fee of £25 for up to two works in order to apply for an application form! All completed forms then have to be returned to the Summer Exhibition Office by the 18th March - so no time to lose!
The Entry process is divided into 3 stages:
  1. Call for Entries The attached form (on the Call For Entries which is available online) is submitted along with your fee.
  2. Entry form A more comprehensive form is sent to you for completion, detailing each work to be submitted.
  3. Delivery of works This takes place on the dates described overleaf
An artist is entitled to submit a maximum of two works and there is a handling fee of £ 25 per work (which is non-refundable and includes VAT).
Summer Exhibition: Call for Entries
Download and read the Call for Entries (a pdf file) for details of how to get your hands on a submission form. Terms of submission are in brief:
  • the size limit is 244 x 350 cm (that's approx. 96 inches x 137 inches or 8 feet x 11+ feet)
  • all works must be framed (excluding sculpture!) and must be submitted with soft padding to protect all corners
  • work which is inadmissable includes:
    • work previously exhibited in London (except for prints)
    • copies of works
    • works which breach health and safety standards
    • works where the artist does not hold complete intellectual copyright
Both the Call for Entries and the application form provides a lot more detail including the dates for submission for different types of work
Glazed works (watercolours, prints, drawings, etc)
Monday 31 March 8am – 7pm
Tuesday 1 April 8am – 7pm

Unglazed works (oils, acrylics, etc)
Wednesday 2 April 8am – 7pm
Thursday 3 April 8am – 7pm

Sculpture ** Tuesday 29 April 8am – 7pm

Architecture Wednesday 30 April 8am – 7pm

Works delivered by suggested transport agents - 28th March
The theme for the exhibition this year in "Man Made" but the RA stresses that submissions do not have to conform to this theme and all submissions are welcome.

The Exhibition Co-ordinators are Gordon Benson, Tony Cragg and Humphrey Ocean. For those who think there is a purpose to knowing who is on the selection committee here are the details! I have to confess they are not all names known to me (I've added the hyperlinks below to the RA's individual pages on the RA website).
This year’s Committee comprises the following artists and architects:
Ivor Abrahams, Will Alsop, Gordon Benson, John Carter, Stephen Chambers, Tony Cragg, Gus Cummins, Anthony Green, Paul Huxley, Mick Moon, and Mick Rooney.
The site also includes a link to a page which tells you about things you never knew about the Summer Exhibition. I liked this one....
Turner painted some of his late masterpieces, including Rain, Steam and Speed — The Great Western Railway, in the Summer Exhibition itself. Varnishing Day was traditionally used for varnishing and touching up paintings in the galleries just before the exhibition opened to the public. An onlooker recalled him 'standing very close up to the canvas, [he] appeared to paint with his eyes and nose as well as his hands'.
Finally, this week saw the fairly momentous announcement that Norman Rosenthal, the Head of Exhibitions, at the Royal Acdemy is stepping down after 31 years and will in future be working as a freelance curator.
Although Rosenthal has no formal qualifications in art or art history, he is credited with mounting a series of landmark shows which popularised the ancient, the obscure and the new. Admired as he is for his curatorial talent, he also gained notoriety for his abrasive personality: he once spat at a critic at an opening.
Martin Hodgson, Thursday January 31, 2008, The Guardian

(Note: "Three perspectives on Ben" was produced in pen and lightfast pigment ink in last night's drawing class. The heads at the top and left were each completed in 45 minutes and the head on the right was completed in 30 minutes).



  1. Those faces are so full of character. Well done, Katherine. Have you ever sculpted? These have a very solid, chiseled quality.

  2. Interesting. I only just picked up my RA form today but hadn't looked at it yet. That's nearly a 40% rise in the price of entry (it was £18 last year) and one less work per artist permitted (you could submit up to 3 works previously).

    I have to say the "theme" gave me a bit of a giggle - since all works of art are of course man made. ;)

  3. In the 'Man Made' theme, they seem to be staying true to form. Interesting to note that the Exhibition Coordinators and Committee are all male...

    I always look to see who on a selection committee as I often find the choices are influenced by the individual's style if they are an artist.


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