Sunday, August 05, 2018

RA Summer Exhibition - a curious exercise in pricing and sales

One of the consequences of having the whole of Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts online - is that you can review which artists got their pricing right - and which got it wrong.

That's a sweeping assertion so let me explain.

But if you want to know what art has sold at the Summer Exhibition you can skip the explanation and go straight to my overview of what sort and size of artwork sold for what range of prices.

I KNOW some artists are going to be very surprised - mostly those who have been over-pricing their work.

I'm hoping my conclusions provide food for thought for those submitting work to next year's Summer Exhibition.

Explore the artworks of the Summer Exhibition by Gallery

The RA Summer Exhibition is the biggest open art exhibition in the world. It attracts an awful lot of visitors, many of whom come to buy - if only to say they bought something from the Summer Exhibition.

That said, if you've got an awful lot of people viewing your work - and you've got it priced right - there's a reasonable expectation that you will sell it.

Moreover, those Royal Academicians have knocked around a bit. They've developed their fans and they ought, by now, to know what their work is worth. One would think.

So does that mean that they are any better or worse than the 'ordinary artist' who submits via the open at getting their pricing right?  It appears that some do and some don't...

The aim is after all to sell the work - since the proceeds of the sales go to support the activities of the Royal Academy Schools. Surely no-one would be so mean as to overprice their work so it doesn't sell?

What has sold - in terms of type, size and price range?

The exhibition closes on 19th August - so it's reasonable to assume that the bulk of the buying has already taken place.

You can review - as I have done - the artwork in the exhibition - and see whether or not it sold. You have a couple of options:
  • view the exhibition in person towards the end of its run - and look for the red dots
  • view the exhibition online - and look to see whether it has sold
World Cities
you can view artwork via
Portrait of the artist

Alternatively you can customise your selection and review by type of artwork:
There's also Architecture and 'Other' but I've ignored those.

It's a very curious - but very interesting exercise. 

For those like me who like to collect impressions and sort and curate them - here's a few of my conclusions. 

I'd be interested to know what your conclusions are.


Over £10,000

  • Most paintings over by £10,000 are by members of the RA. 
  • by and large expensive artwork (£10,000+) by RAs generally does not sell 
    • UNLESS it's figurative and in a realistic or impressionist style by Diana Armfield, Fred Cuming, Ken Howard or Bill Jacklin
  • re. non-members - typically you need to be a well known 'name' like Eileen Hogan to sell paintings priced above £10,000 (so don't even think about going there next year unless you think you too are a name!)

£5,000 - £10,000

  • Diana Armfield virtually sold out - whether this is a response to her husband's death remains to be seen. However it should not be forgotten that her paintings have displayed perennial popularity
  • Other artists who sold - BY SIZE - were
    • EXTRA large - Olwen Bowey RA, Catherine Chambers Emma Howarth, Melissa Scott-Miller, Barbara McFarlane, John Wragg RA and Mark Habisrittinger
    • large - Mick Rooney RA
    • small - Sheila Wallis

Under £5,000

  • small paintings - by various artists via the open - predominantly sold for under £500
  • medium sized paintings - a very popular category for sales with nearly all sold - mostly within the £750 - £2,000 range. A major educational point for all those wondering about pricing for next year
  • large paintings - LOTS of sales - worth studying
  • very large paintings - LOTS of sales - worth studying


  • small - very few (3) but two sold
  • medium - 8 drawings and 7 sold (most for under £500)
  • large drawings - a significant number sold - but mostly for under £1,000
  • extra large - if by an RA or a very well known artist eg Glex Baxter then they sell for over £1,000; if not they typically sell for under - which is as good a benchmark I know for how those who drawn should be thinking about pricing.


Traditionally this one generates a LOT of sales - but it's impossible to draw conclusions from the summary overview and you have to go to individual pieces to see how much of the edition has sold
  • HUGE number of prints priced at less than £1,000
  • known RA names can sell well above £1,000 eg. 
    • Bill Jacklin RA monotypes sell well
    • a Norman Ackroyd RA etching (not cheap - but less than £1,000) with birds has sold out
  • small editions are capable of selling out
  • from previous shows, I do know that those priced competitively (i.e. small enough for an impulse buy) can sell most if not all of an edition 


  • small works and those for less than £2,000 sell a lot better than more expensive and much larger works. There is of course the perennial "where can we put it" question. Small works provide easier answers.
  • glass works by Ron Arad RA were extremely popular - all sold
  • The Red Bear sold (for £12,500) Congrats to Debbie Lawson!
  • Most of the large and very large sculpture for outrageous prices remains unsold - whether or not it could be sold online. I'm sure quite a lot of it might have sold if the pricing had been rather more realistic. Maybe the artists can afford to be outrageous in their pricing?
  • I think the sales provide a very clear steer for artists planning an entry next year - study the results for yourself!


This is a difficult one because like prints there are editions - and the Explorer summaries need to be updated to show how much of an edition has sold.
  • Funky Pigeon sold out! Nothing much else did.... mostly quirky photos.
  • Only one framed work above £1,000 sold.
  • I was actually surprised - "those in the know" are supposed to reckon photography is very popular. All I can say is 'not at this exhibition!'


This has four pieces and all are highly priced - only for those with pots of money and apparently none are interested!

If somebody cares to send me the sales spreadsheet I'll happily crunch the numbers further and tell you more!

and finally......

What has this taught YOU about submitting YOUR ART to next year's Summer Exhibition?

More about Art Competitions & the Summer Exhibition

I write a lot about art competitions and open exhibitions of national art societies. 

Major Art Competitions in the UK is my page which tells you all about the major art competitions in the UK

Previous Posts about the Summer Exhibition

2018 (in order to date)

Reviews of past Summer Exhibitions 



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