Monday, January 16, 2012

RA Summer Exhibition 2012: Call for Entries

Entry forms for the 2012 Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts are now available.
This post is about the entry process for the world's largest open submission art competition.
  • for those who have not submitted before - and 
  • for those who have just forgotten how and need a reminder!
    The courtyard of Burlington House - Summer Exhibition 2010

    The Royal Academy's Annual Summer Exhibition started in 1768. It has been held every year since.  In 2012 the 244th Summer Exhibition will be on display between 4th June and 12th August.
    One of the founding principles of the Royal Academy of Arts was to 'mount an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit' to finance the training of young artists in the RA Schools. This has been held every year without interruption since 1769 and continues to play a significant part in raising funds to finance the students. The Royal Academy receives no public funding so all those who support the Summer Exhibition by submitting work, visiting it and through purchases contribute to supporting artists of the future.  
    Besides the tradition of creating funds for the RA Schools, The Summer Exhibition has two main functions:
    • It enables the Royal Academicians to display their work in a large central London Gallery.  In effect, it's essentially the same as the Annual Exhibition of an Art Society.  The main difference is that their work is often large, imposing and can comes with a price tag running into several tens of thousand pounds!
    • It's an open exhibition and a showcase for contemporary art of all styles and media. It includes paintings, sculpture, photography, prints, architectural models, film, and artist's books.

    Who can enter the RA's Summer Exhibition?

    Any artist - living anywhere in the world - may enter work for selection.  There is no age limit.

    In 2011, over 12,000 entries were received from artists in 27 countries.  Around about 1,200 are exhibited each year.

    Due to the numbers submitted for exhibition, the RA recognises that all artworks are likely to experience considerable handling and decline to accept any liability for any damage or loss during the submission or exhibition process.  It's the artist's responsibility to insure the artwork.

    The RA also aims to include well over 100 artists every year who have not previously exhibited in the Summer Exhibition.

    Why enter the Summer Exhibition

    It looks great on your CV if you're the sort of artist who is trying to impress galleries which like that sort of thing or are impressed by such achievements.

    The show provides an excellent opportunity to sell your art work. During the three months that the exhibition is on display it will be seen by around 200,000 visitors - and people running or owning galleries. All artists are strongly encouraged to enter work that is available for sale. (That's called a hint!)

    Who decides what is exhibited?

    The 2012 Exhibition is curated each year by the Selection and Hanging Committee. All works entered are reviewed by the Selection and Hanging Committee.

    In 2012, this an annually rotating committee of Royal Academicians - who are all practicing artists and architects - comprises Stephen Chambers, Peter Freeth, Eva Jiricna, Mali Morris, Humphrey Ocean, Chris Orr, Barbara Rae, Alison Wilding, Chris Wilkinson

    What are the Prizes like?

    The Summer Exhibition is probably more notable for the overall size of the prize pot rather than the size of individual prizes. There are other exhibitions and art competitions in London which can match the top prize money.

    In total, over £65,000 will be given in prizes. All exhibited works are eligible for the relevant prizes and the awards include
    • The Charles Wollaston Award for the most distinguished work (£25,000), 
    • The Jack Goldhill Award for a sculpture (£10,000), 
    • The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize (£1,500), 
    • The British Institution Awards for students (4 prizes of £1000), 
    • The Rose Award for Photography (£1000), 
    • The Sunny Dupree Family Award for a Woman Artist (£3500) and 
    • The Bovis Lend Lease/Architects Journal Awards for Architecture (£15,000 in total). 
    How to submit work for the Summer Exhibition

    You are RECOMMENDED to download the list of frequently asked questions (1.0 MB)

    Eligible work: An artist may enter a maximum of two works - preferably created in the last two years - for the consideration of the judges, for a handling charge of £25.00 per work.

    Inadmissable work is summarised (by me) below - see the entry form for the precise wording as the various conditions which state that a work is not admissable are scattered throughout the document:
    • work that is over the specified size limit of 244 x 350cm (excluding sculpture);
    • works that have already been exhibited in London (excluding fine art prints)
    • work which is not original (eg copies of works; works that breach the copyright of third parties) 
    • work where the artist has not obtained prior written approval for the use of any third party copyrighted material contained in the submitted work 
    • work which exposes the RA to risk of legal proceedings (or appears to do so)
    • work by an artist who died a year or more before 13 March 2012
    • work which presents an environmental and/or health and safety risk and does not comply with all relevant regulations 
    • work that does not comply with the terms and conditions of the competition
    • unframed works or framed work with a projection or hanging fixtures on the reverse of the work.  All drawings, watercolours, pictures, miniatures or reliefs and other such works submitted MUST be framed in a separate frame. You can send in unframed canvases but the RA will NOT accept liability for such works.
    Note that the RA advises strongly advises that artists should use simple, neutral coloured frames where possible.  That's code for "if your frame overpowers the work of others it won't get selected even if we really like the artwork"

    Stages of registration and submission

    There are basically three stages involved in submitting work for consideration.
    1. Buy an Entry Form by:
      1. writing and asking for one to be sent to you.  
      2. downloading one of two forms available for download for: One Work £25 and Two Works £50
      3. Telephone  020 7300 5929 / 5969  - but don't leave this until the last minute as the phone will be busy with people having other queries
    2. Complete the Call for Entries (registration form) and send it to the RA with the correct fee in £ by 4pm on 13th March 2012  
    3. Deliver the work on the specific submission days.
    The submission of sculpture is in two stages with the first stage comprising the submission of digital photos.

    You can pay online or over the phone by credit card.  There are no refunds if you buy a form for two works but only submit one.

    Deadlines for buying an entry form

    The deadlines for buying an entry form are:

    • Worldwide (except Europe and UK) - 22nd February
    • Europe (except UK) - 2nd March
    • UK - 9th March

    International submissions

    Note that there are special rules for those entering work by international artists based in another country (see section 4 Entering work from abroad).  The most important rule is that work sent directly by post or courier to the RA will not be accepted.  The RA recommends the use of an accredited agent.

    The reason for this is that there are sorts of issues related to import and tax which need to be dealt with in an appropriate way and all relevant paperwork must be completed properly.

    Timeline for registration and submission

    There's lots of encouragement every year to get your entry form EARLY and ONLINE and to avoid the telephone which can get very busy. The FAQs document gives you all the details you need to know about how do this and how to pay.
    Delivery Days 2011
    Transportation will not be organised by the Royal Academy and expenses must be borne by the artist.
    No receipts are issued for work submitted due to the fact the RA are accepting 12,000 works in a short space of time. They do however scan the work on arrival.
    • Deadline for receipt of all entry forms: Tuesday 13 March
    • Deadline for photographs of sculpture: Tuesday 13 March
    • Sculpture invited from photographs: 25 April
    • Deliveries by transport agents only : 23 March
    • Glazed works (watercolours, prints, drawings, etc): 26 and 27 March (8am - 7pm)
    • Unglazed works (oils, acrylics, etc): 28 and 29 March (8am - 7pm)
    • Architecture: 28 April"Glazed works" means works framed behind glass. These are usually prints, photographs, drawings, and watercolours.
    You can submit video works however all film-based works must be submitted on a DVD in QuickTime file format together with associated Entry Forms by 15th March 2011.

    Artists will be informed in writing whether or not entries have been successful by Thursday 24 May 2012.

    Tips for submission

    The forms are not transferable - and nor are the bar codes.  So you can't get a form off a friend.

    You must state the media used for drawings, prints and sculpture.

    Work must be unpacked before it is submitted.  However:
    • framed work will be rejected if it has any projection or hanging fixtures on the reverse of the work.  Pictures are stacked and hence there must be nothing which can scratch another work.
    • to avoid frames being damaged, artists are recommended to ensure soft padding protects all the corners of all artwork submitted.
    Don't forget to complete both the tie-on and other labels and apply the bar codes properly - NOT  job to be done in a rush!

    If you have any queries, please telephone 020 7300 5929 / 5969 ot e-mail the Summer Exhibition Office at

    You do not endear yourself to organisers by asking a question which is addressed in the available documentation.  You should read and re-read three times to make sure before asking a question which may waste their time.

    Sale Prices and Commission

    My personal view is that low priced original work has little chance of acceptance.  A low price indicates that the artist does not attribute much value to the work - and the RA will get a low level of commission if it sells.

    On the other hand reasonably priced fine art prints have a habit of selling like hotcakes!

    The price is the figure notified on the form and cannot be changed during the course of the exhibition. If you can get to the Summer Exhibition it's always a good idea to check in advance of submission the price range of artwork similar to your own by artists of comparable standing.

    Note that the following deductions are made from the sale price:
    • VAT if payable by the artist (you must include your VAT reg. no if applicable)
    • commission @30%
    • all costs involved eg UK postage and packing for sending editions of prints to purchasers
    The Exhibition

    The Summer Exhibition is at Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts 4 June - 12 August 2012

    Links:  Art Competitions in the UK provides more information about this and other major art competitions in the UK

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