Thursday, January 07, 2016

RA Summer Exhibition 2016 - Call for entries

Every year I write about how to enter the world's largest open submission art competition - the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.

You need to know

Artists wishing to enter need to know six things up front:
  1. If your entry is not one of the first 12,000 entries received you won't be exhibited. This is because, as in previous years, the RA are only accepting 12,000 entries for the first round of screening entries. Do NOT leave your entry to the last minute!
  2. Submission is digital via an online form - which are now on sale. You need to register first - and should do this now!
  3. The deadline for entries is midnight on 12 February 2016
  4. Only one third 4,000 will be shortlisted for the second round of selection.  
  5. If you get through to the second stage you will then have between 15 - 20% chance of getting your work included in the exhibition - something like 700 exhibits by non-RA members.
  6. This year there is a big bonus for printmakers - watch out for the new guidance below!
Entries for last year’s exhibition sold out before the deadline so we encourage you to enter as soon as possible. RA Website
As I advised last year, to avoid being disappointed make sure you get your form to submit your work and then submit it as quickly as you can!  If you wait until the deadline you may well find the limit on entries has already been reached.

A view of some of the fine art prints which were relocated into larger galleries
in the RA Summer Exhibition 2015
This is a LONG POST and this is what I cover:
  • About the Summer Exhibition (with links at the end to my previous reviews of Summer Exhibitions at the RA - which include images so you can see what you're up against)
  • the key documents you need to know about - and how the RA helps prospective entrants make a good job of their entry
  • Who's doing the selection and hang this year
  • The Submission and Selection Process
    • who can enter
    • what you can enter
    • the timeline and process - and how to enter
  • Changes I've spotted - compared to previous years - are also highlighted below. I probably haven't spotted all of them so if you can see any more please leave a comment and I will update this post.

About the Summer Exhibition

Key facts:
  • The exhibition has been held every year since 1769!  This is the 248th Annual Summer Exhibition at the RA.
  • The exhibition showcases painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and film.
  • the submission fees and commissions fund the organisation of the exhibition, the RA Schools and other exhibitions put on by the RA
  • Prizes: prizes valued at c£50,000 were on offer in 2015.  This was a decrease of £20,000 when compared to previous years. There's no indication of prizes for 2016 - although this is not generally the reason to enter.
  • Number of artworks: in 2015, 1,131 pieces were listed in the catalogue. The percentage of works by non-Academicians seems to vary - it's about two thirds
  • In 2015, the RA produced the Summer Exhibition Explorer for the very first time. This was an online and fully illustrated list of works. It was very successful. Nearly 120,000 users visited the website, many to check the availability of works for sale.  
  • In 2016, they are changing the rules for how works can be sold online - see NEW Artwork Sales Information below.
  • Sales: over 5,000 works have been sold at some exhibitions - however...
    • an awful lot of these will have been repeat sales of limited edition fine art prints which tend to do extremely well in terms of sales because they are more affordable (ie the sales figure does not correlate well with the listed items figure). 
    • it would be jolly nice if entrants knew how sales do by type of work, how many works by non-academicians sell and what percentage of the prints generate repeat sales.

The Key "Need to Know" Links

These are the basic MUST READ carefully documents!
These are listed under Helpful Links at the side of this page (Note the change in URL) - which is a good thing as they are not self-evidently links!
Below I unpack these documents and highlight the main points

The RA also very helpfully provide some help sheets and videos on how to make the best job of your submission - and get it to the RA if chosen for the second round of selection.

Printmakers should note that there is a new info sheet for print sales in 2016
  • NEW Artwork Sales Information Message to Printmakers (PDF) - This allows distance selling of unframed works via the RA but requires complete compliance of the artist with the UK rules and regulations on distance selling. (see my website page E-commerce for Artists - on Art Business Info for Artists. This provides outline guidance on the nature of the requirements for distance selling and transactions online and links to and quotes from relevant government website pages)
Large paintings in the Summer Exhibition 2015

The 2016 Selection and Hanging Committee

The members of the Summer Exhibition Committee serve in rotation and convene at monthly meetings to discuss the shape of the show, ensuring that each exhibition has a distinctive character. Each Member is responsible for certain areas and the final selection is made during the eight-day hang. The exhibition is finalised on ‘Sanctioning Day’ when the Committee meets for the last time; beyond this point no changes can be made. RA website
In principal the selection and hanging committee is always balanced and who is on it should make no difference. In reality, the exhibition's emphasis and personality does change from year to year. Apart from the entries the only other thing that changes are the people on the Committee and who co-ordinates things.

It was very evident last year that there had been a complete rethink of what works should go where and in part how much space work should be allowed. I'm assuming this was also reflected in the process of selection.

So - if you want to research the 2016 Selection and Hanging Committee here they all are.

Summer Exhibition Co-ordinator 2016

Selection and Hanging Committee 2016

The link in their name is to their page and related material on the RA website and the second link is to their website. They're all RA members.  The designation after their name is the class of RAs they belong to although some cross boundaries in their own personal work eg print as well as paint
That makes four sculptors, three painters, two architects and one printmaker.....

I'm left wondering if this is a hangover from last year. I have a suspicion the sculptors were none too happy with their room last year and I certainly agree it was very crowded. I'd personally like to see the sculpture spread around all the galleries except the architecture one.

It was rather difficult moving around the Gallery holding most of the sculpture last year

The 2015 Process - Timeline and how to enter

Stages of the submission process are in red.

As last year I'm highlighting the different stages of the process for entering the Summer Exhibition in red. I'd still like to see a flow chart for those people who comprehend processes better if they are visual!

Who can enter

  • Anybody can enter. 
  • There is no upper or lower age limit. 
  • You don't have to live in the UK 
  • You don't need to have had a formal (or any) art education or have gone to art college.

What can you enter

The RA is somewhat odd insofar as they don't say what you can enter so much as tell you what sort of works are included (eg paintings) and state what you cannot enter!  The latter comes in two parts - relating to
  • what is inadmissable and 
  • what the situation needs to be on intellectual property.
You can enter anything which is not listed as inadmissable - and inadmissable seems to relate in part to "unsafe in a public exhibition" and/or  "very difficult to move" and/or "misleading the public"

Below is the 2016 definition of inadmissable. I've highlighted new/additional words in blue. These are a bit odd as they clearly relate to large sculptures and architural models and yet modify and qualify a sentence which makes clear it does NOT relate to large sculptures and architectural models. That's just bad English/drafting in my view - although the intended meaning is clear.
Inadmissable Works
The following types of work are inadmissible:
  • works that are over the specified size limit of 244 x 350cm (excluding sculpture and architectural models, where any one part of a large sculpture or architecture model should not exceed 200cm on the longest side and the total weight may be no more than 3,000kg when packed)
  • works that have already been exhibited in a major institution in London (excluding prints)
  • printed reproductions of original artworks
  • works that contain noxious or toxic substances, have flammability below 50°c or incorporate dangerous electrical appliances
  • editions of sculptures cast in materials that are different to the materials of the exhibited work
You can enter works where there is no chance of any legal allegations / proceedings

Note that the wording of the "all your own work/intellectual property" paragraph seems to have changed

FROM (2015)
By submitting a Work(s) when you are the Artist of such Work(s), you confirm that you hold all intellectual property rights in the Work(s) and that you have obtained any third party consents required for the use of third party owned material contained in the Work(s).
TO (2016)
The RA reserves the right to deny admission or withdraw a Work(s) from the Exhibition if for any reason the Work(s), or any circumstances surrounding the display of the Work(s), appears to the RA to expose it to potential or actual risk of legal proceedings or enforcement including, without limitation, the alleged breach of third party intellectual property rights.
By deduction, this means you can enter artwork that
  • you have created and 
  • where you hold all the relevant intellectual property rights 
  • and/or relevant permissions from others.
Given the change in wording, I'm surmising that they've probably experienced problems with works in the exhibition which has led to the change of wording on the basis of legal advice. It suggests to me (and this is just a personal interpretation) that even if an artist denies there's a problem with IP rights that the RA reserve the right to withdraw a work from exhibition if it is alleged a work breaches the intellectual property rights of others - and they aren't up for debating the issue!

Bottom line - I'm reading this as meaning that
  • the RA does not want any involvement with any litigation associated with copyright infringement - and will expel a work from exhibition should any allegation be made about any breach of intellectual property rights related to the artwork.  They protect themselves from potential litigation if they take prompt action on a substantiated notification of a breach.
  • those copying photographs and/or producing derivative works should be alert to the implications in more ways than one. 
  • if you breach the rights of another person you're on your own when it comes to any litigation.
Put simply - the RA must be thinking "who needs the prospect of litigation when there is so much other work to choose from"!  Seems like a very sensible proposition to me.  Of course somebody is bound to see it as a challenge to see if they can outwit the RA!

The Deadline for Entries

  • The Absolute Deadline: Midnight (GMT) Friday 13 February 2014 - RA closes online entry 
  • BUT it could be MUCH earlier if more than 12,000 entry forms are purchased are purchased before this date.  Once the forms are sold they are sold!

Submission - Round 1 - Screening of ALL ENTRIES via digital image

What you need to complete a digital entry

The RA Summer Exhibition website opened for business on 6 January 2016.

All entries are digital - there are no postal entries and you can't bring your artwork to the RA in the first round. You MUST use the website to
  • register for an account, 
  • obtain and pay for your entry form BEFORE you upload your digital images. This costs £25 per work. The fee is non-refundable and is payable online using either a credit or debit card.
  • create and complete your digital submission of your entry and upload digital images.
To do this you must be able to access a computer, you must have an email address and a facility for electronic payment eg a debit or credit card.

Next you order and pay for the form
What you cannot do is make a submission on behalf of somebody else without their permission.

You then need to order and pay for your Entry Form (remembering that when 12,00 have been sold that's it! No more will be sold.)
  • you need to buy the right type of form - for one or two works. You can't add in a second work at a later date.
  • you can't sell the form on to anybody else. All forms are non-transferable. It can only be used by the person who paid for it.
Finally you complete the entry details on the form and upload your digital images of your artwork.

ATTENTION: INTERNATIONAL ENTRANTS.  You MUST read the rules on VAT very carefully - which explains what you need to take account of and where you can find more information.
Due to a recent change in the law, individuals without a UK residence (known as NETPs – non-established taxable persons) must register for UK VAT and supply a UK VAT number to the Academy before they can sell works of art in the Summer Exhibition.
your VAT number by Friday, 20 May 2016 or we will have to list your work as ‘Not for Sale’ in the catalogue. 
You will find out the result of the screening of 12,000 entries on the 11th March 2016, via email, whether or not you have been successful in the first stage

If you are then you are now part of a smaller group of 4,000 entries competing for around c.700 places in the exhibition for non-RA members.

Submission - Round 2 - Screening of delivered works 

Now you need to get your longlisted work to the RA!

(NOTE: The RA refer to it as a shortlist but since works chosen at this stage might still not make it into the exhibition I call it the longlist!)

Transport agents are suggested - but not recommended - by the RA. In other words, you appoint the agent, you pay the agent and if your agent makes a mess of the delivery it's not the responsibility of the RA.

Note that:
  • all works must be delivered unpacked prior to handing over to the RA's art handlers
  • you cannot courier work direct to the RA (i.e. it will not unpack for you)
  • the RA will NOT store your packaging

Dates for Delivery

There are two changes in dates in 2016 compared to 2015. I'm assuming the changes this is to smooth the process for both artists and the RA
  • the big and awkwardly shaped works are coming in first - presumably to make sure they've got enough space to store them. (the change in words about dimensions is suddenly beginning to make sense!). 
  • the dates are generally later than in 2015

Each category has a different delivery date - make sure you identify the right one for your artwork AND note the times on the day
  • Audio-visual work: Tuesday 16 February
  • Sculpture: Tuesday 10 May 8am – 7pm EXCLUDING PLINTHS (all plinths are supplied by the RA)
  • Architecture (Models and Wall-Based Works): Wednesday 11 May 8am – 5pm
  • 2D works ie. Artist's Book, Drawing, Painting, Photograph, Print, Mixed Media, Watercolour
    • Thursday 12 May 10am – 7pm
    • Friday 13 May 8am – 5pm

Collection Dates and Times

Works which are not selected and/or hung must be collected.
  • 23 May – 11 June delivered works which are unsuccessful (longlist) 
  • 31 May – 11 June delivered works which are selected but not hung (shortlist) 
  • 27 August - 16 September - works exhibited in the Summer Exhibition (ie you are responsible for shipping the work to the purchaser - and can do so once you've got a Removal Order)

Specific queries

For specific questions on the process not answered in the FAQs document, you will need to email the RA Summer Exhibition Team via the 'Contact Us' website form. Note that replies may take up to 3 working day.

Summer Exhibition 2016

The 2016 Summer Exhibition takes place between 13 June – 21 August 2016.

Previous reviews of the Summer Exhibition


  1. Just to clarify - if I purchase my entry form(s) does this reserve me an entry, even if I were to submit just before the final deadline date? Much appreciated.

  2. Good question. I'd advise you direct it to the Exhibition Organisers - their word on the topic is the one you want

  3. As usual Katherine, very thorough and very helpful! Thank you.

  4. Hi Katherine, a very useful post. But one thing I'm not clear on is I'm through to the final stage and will find out if my work has been hung this weekend for 2017 show. The initial shortlist is 4,000 from the 12,000 entries and I'm now through the 2nd stage 'still under consideration' but some people I know (from the 4,000 shortlist) are not now so I wonder how many of them are at this last stage i.e what percentage are not hung. Was wondering if you know or maybe I have misread your post?

  5. See point 5 above

    "If you get through to the second stage you will then have between 15 - 20% chance of getting your work included in the exhibition - something like 700 exhibits by non-RA members."

    Sometimes the issue why work is not hung is because it just doesn't work with other pieces which are being hung (eg too big or too shouty)

  6. hi katherine
    I was successful in getting through the first stage and my work was sent and judged. I wasn't successful. My work was returned with a D, not an X. I don't seem to have been under consideration so why was I marked with a D? Thanks

  7. The 'D' marking is something that confuses a lot of people. It means 'Doubtful' i.e. pieces get through the first stage when at least one person likes it however classification depends on how many support its inclusion.

    My understanding is there is a split between
    * hands up from everybody or nearly everybody i.e. must be included and
    * very limited support i.e. just one or two thinking it should be included.

    Most pieces get marked 'D'! :)

    An "X" on the back means rejection when seen by a panel of selectors


COMMENTS HAVE BEEN CLOSED AGAIN because of the amount of spam and copying of my blog posts which is taking place. Removing them is taking too much time.
Please feel free to comment about the blog on my Facebook Page as my blog posts are always posted there but please note
1) anonymous comments are NEVER published
2) automated / spam / scam comments are never ever published on this blog
3) I ALWAYS block and report spammers to Google and/or on Facebook

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.