Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How to enter the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition 2013

Artists have got about six weeks to get their entries sorted for the 245th RA Summer Exhibition 2013 at the Royal Academy of Arts.

This very prestigious exhibition will be held at Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts (Monday, 10th June - Sunday, 18th August 2013).  It's likely to have around 150,000 visitors.
  • This post is about the entry process for the world's largest open submission art competition which has been held every year since 1769.
    • for those who have not submitted before - and 
    • for those who have just forgotten how and need a reminder!
  • This is rather a long lost. A summary of how to enter is also provided in Major UK Art Competitions in the UK 2013

First we need to look at last year and what changed - before we go on to wonder whether the changes will be abandoned and the exhibition will revert to "type".

Terms and Conditions for Entries to 
the Summer Exhibition 2013
held by the Royal Academy of Art
The nature of the competition
In 2012, more than 300 first-time 'open submission' artists had work in the Summer Exhibition, almost 1,500 entries were shown and more than two thirds were by non-Academicians.An artist's guide to the Summer Exhibition

Last year:
  • There seemed to be a conscious effort to attract more artwork from younger artists to address accusations which have been justifiably levelled at this competition in the past.
  • the number of works increased - as did the number of works by non-Academicians.  There were also more new artists selected for the exhibition than has happened in recent years
  • the hang was changed in a quite radical way and many more smaller paintings were hung in the Large Weston Room.  This was presumably associated with the fact the Exhibition hung more work from the open entry than ever before.

This was my review of last year's exhibition - Review: 244th Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy which focuses on the extent to which the exhibition changed last year.

244th Summer Exhibition - Paintings in the Large Weston Room
This year's exhibition

It's unclear whether the exhibition this summer will continue to select more new work from artists who have not exhibited at the RA before in the same vein as 2012 - or return to its more traditional approach. The usual aim is to include at least 100 artists who have never exhibited at the RA before - from which you can tell that a lot of those who get chosen from the open entry have exhibited in the Summer Exhibition in previous years.

There are some hints. The organisers have announced that the themes for the hang of this year's exhibition are as follows:
  • an emphasis on a range of printmaking practices - in works of a moderate size - are to be explored in their traditional home in the Small Weston Room (Hurrah!)
  • the common ground between photography and painting will be investigated in one of the larger galleries
  • the meeting points between sculpture and architecture will also be considered.

However other than indicating that printmaking works of a moderate size are probably more likely to be accepted, I'm not sure how these themes help the artists submitting work.

244th Summer Exhibition - Gallery I

It's worth noting who's who this year.  The 2012 Exhibition is curated each year by the Selection and Hanging Committee.

Why enter the Summer Exhibition

 It adds provenance to your artwork! Galleries are often impressed by artists who have had work selected in prestigious open competitions.  It looks great on your CV and it makes it easier for galleries to sell your work to collectors who are impressed by such achievements.

The show also 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!)

I would add that those who sell absolutely oodles of work are the printmakers.  I suspect one of the reasons they get a very good gallery to show work in is because they probably generate rather a lot of funds judging by the number of red spots which accumulate on artwork during the course of the show.  I once went near the end of the summer show and, out of curiosity started to tot up the value of the prints sold versus the values of paintings of similar size.  The printmakers were way out in front on value of work sold.  That's the sort of thing an art society cares about in a recession!

The chances of being selected

Let's say 1,000 entries from non-Academicians came from the 11,000+ entries received via the open competition in 2012 - when many more artists had work selected via the open entry.

That means that the chances of a non-Academician getting work hung - last year - was around about 9% - which is way better than a number of other art competitions.  However that was last year - and last year was very much out of step with other recent years.

Who and what is eligible (and ineligible)

Eligible artists: Any artist - living anywhere in the world - may enter work for selection.
  • There is no age limit.  
  • There is no requirement for you to have attended an art school or to have received any formal training.

Eligible work / mediadownload the Terms and Conditions of Entry (788 KB)
  • Maximum of two works in total
  • glazed works (watercolours, prints, drawings, photographs, etc) on paper; Unglazed works (oil, acrylic, etc); artist's books; video; sculpture, architectural drawings and models
  • Preferably created within the last 2 years
  • Maximum size (excluding sculpture) is 244 × 350cm

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 2013
  • work which presents an environmental and/or health and safety risk and does not comply with all relevant regulations (ie works that contain noxious or toxic substances, have flammability below 50°c or incorporate dangerous electrical appliances)
  • 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.

How to submit work for the Summer Exhibition

Entry is not cheap due to the prestige of the competition and the process.  If you want a checklist to work out what it might be for you can I refer you to my post last week How to calculate the cost of entering a juried art exhibition


You are RECOMMENDED to download

Stages of registration and submission

There are basically three stages involved in submitting work for consideration.  First you submit an entry online and then you deliver the work on a later date.
  1. Buy a Summer Exhibition Entry Form by:
    • Click here to buy an Entry Form  - you have a choice of buying a form for one or two works.  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.
    • Write and ask for one to be sent to you.  Deadline for getting forms by post for worldwide artists 1st March 2013
    • Telephone  0207 300 5929 / 5969  - but don't leave any queries until the last minute as the phone is likely to be very busy
  2. Complete the Summer Exhibition Entry Form and send it to the RA with the correct fee of £25 per work. 
    • Deadline to pay fee / obtain entry form: Friday, 8th March 2013
    • Complete / Return Entry Form: Tuesday, 12th March 2013 by 4pm
  3. Deliver the work on the specific submission days. The submission of sculpture and architectures is in two stages with the first stage comprising the submission of digital photos.
    • Film-based work: submitted as a DVD in a separate single QuickTime file format (.mov) with their Entry Forms by Tuesday, 12th March
    • Artists' Books: 5th April
    • Glazed (work behind glass): 8th and 9th April 
    • Unglazed: 10th and 11th April 
    • Delivery of requested sculptures: 1st May
    • Delivery of requested architecture: 2nd May 
  4. No receipts are issued for work submitted due to the fact the RA are accepting c.12,000 works in a short space of time.
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"

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.

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.
  • Transportation is not organised by the Royal Academy. Expenses of submission are the responsibility of the artist.
  • You cannot submit work by post
  • 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 or 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

Some tips:
  • reasonably priced fine art prints have a habit of selling like hotcakes!
  • 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.
  • The price cannot be changed during the course of the exhibition. It's the figure which you stated on the form
  • If you want to enter artwork in the Summer Exhibition it's always a good idea to visit the previous year to check out 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

What are the Prizes like? 

The Summer Exhibition is 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 and/or exceed the top prize money.  The Royal Academy of Arts also seems to take some perverse pleasure in never ever announcing or producing a list of who has won all the prizes - which always strikes me as very odd to say the least.  No bonus points for marketing the work of artists!

The Summer Exhibition Prizes provides the full list. In total, over £65,000 will be given in prizes. All exhibited works are eligible for the relevant prizes and the awards include
  • The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award - £25,000 for the most distinguished work in the exhibition.
  • The Jack Goldhill Award for Sculpture - £10,000 for a sculpture. 
  • The Sunny Dupree Family Award for a Woman Artist - £3,500 for the best painting or sculpture by a woman artist. 
  • The Hugh Casson Drawing Prize - £3,000 for an original work on paper in any medium, where the emphasis is clearly on drawing. 
  • The London Original Print Fair Prize - £2,000 for a print in any medium. 
  • The Arts Club Trust Award - £2,000 for an artist aged 35 or under for a work in any medium (except architecture). 
  • The British Institution Awards - Four prizes of £1,000 each awarded to student exhibitors for paintings, works on paper, sculpture and architecture. 
  • The Rose Award for Photography - £1,000 for a photograph or series of photographs. 
  • Lend Lease/Architects’ Journal Awards - £15,000 (£10,000 for the Grand Award for architecture and £5,000 for the best work by a first-time exhibitor in the Summer Exhibition.) 

and finally......

Here's some Things you never knew about the Summer Exhibition

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

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