Saturday, December 08, 2018

Review: ROI Annual Exhibition 2018 + commentary on pricing

This is my review of the 2018 annual exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, following on my from my initial impressions and prizewinners included in 126th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters

The feature end wall of the Main Gallery
This one includes:
  • statistics about the open entry for all those who submitted their oil paintings in the hope of getting them on the wall of the exhibition
  • some of the paintings I really liked in the exhibition - which feature throughout this post
  • artists who have done well in terms of selling their work
  • some of the things I liked less about the exhibition
  • commentary on sales and an idea for how to stimulate more sales in future

Thames at Richmond by the new President of the ROI Tim Benson PROI NEAC
oil 41x 36cm £1,500
I've been telling Tim Benson for ages that I really like his landscapes! Just need to persuade him to put them on his website too now.....

ROI 126th Annual Exhibition - Open Entry Metrics


I've made it my practice in recent times to include statistics relevant to all those endeavouring to exhibit in the annual open exhibitions of national art societies!

The idea is to show people what sort of chance they have of getting their work in the show

Below is a table of the numbers relating to this exhibition and below that I've summarised the key points

ROI 2018 Open Entry Exhibition statistics - for artists and artworks

750 artists submitted 1,900 artworks to the exhibition this year. Of these
  • 16% of artists got 10% of the artwork past the initial digital screening stage - and submitted work for final selection. 
  • 10% of the artists who submitted work have work hanging in the exhibition
  • Only 6% of the artwork submitted was selected for the exhibition
  • This suggests that quite a lot of artists submit a lot of artwork. 
The Good News - this is a competitive open entry but at least a third of the exhibition will be by artists and artwork from the open entry.

However those aspiring to exhibit at this exhibition should bear in mind that some of those exhibiting via the Open Entry are experienced artists and/or professional artists and/or members of one or more of the other FBA societies. So you do need to submit your very best work!

For those who have not been successful at all and/or not as successful as they hoped you need to review the reasons why your work was not selected.

The Beast on the Heath by Benjamin Hope NEAC PSoil, 41cm x 41cm £1,400

I really liked this work by Benjamin Hope whose work was selected via the open entry. Benjamin got himself elected to both the New English Art Club and the Pastel Society in 2018.

One of the things I really liked about this show is
  • the good mix of work by members and non-members on the walls - it makes for a much more interesting show.
  • oil paintings make up an extremely high percentage of the artwork in display. There are incredibly few acrylic paintings - and I wouldn't recommend acrylic as a medium for those applying via the open entry. This is a society that is what it says it is!
That said I've enjoyed the hangs of other exhibitions better - such as the one five years ago (see Review - 2013 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters) - and that's because I do like exhibitions which balance colour on the walls well.

Artists who have excelled in selling art


White Roses (£1,750 sold) and Green Apples (£1,750)  - still life paintings by Linda Alexander ROI SBA

I think we give far too little kudos to those artists who sell well - and exhibitions too.
Frankly if people aspire to be full-time artists and want to exhibit on a regular basis then they need to pay attention to and learn from the habits and practices of those who sell well if. Exhibiting without selling is a luxury reserved for those with independent means.

All the artists who have done well in terms of selling work are ROI members. The following (in alphabetical order) are award-winning artists who have all sold at least three works. All three paint extremely well within their genre.
  • Linda Alexander ROI SBA - a full-time professional artist in 2005, she is a member of ROI and the Society of Botanical Artists and a Council Member of the ROI. She is a still life painter of plants, flowers and fruit.
  • Lucy McKie ROI (Lucy has actually sold all her paintings) - based in Yorkshire and elected elected a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 2011; Lucy serves as a council member for the society. She paints almost full-time and loves paintings still life.
Four still life paintings by Lucy McKie - ALL SOLD
  • David Pilgrim - an award-winning a British painter with a passion for painting ‘en plein air’ He has been a moving force behind the resurrection of plein air painting via the British Plein Air Painters Group.
David Pilgrim ROI - Screendump from the Mall Galleries website indicating the paintings which have sold

One of the points I'd make is that all presented their artwork extremely well - so it looked good quality. Artists sometimes underestimate how important presentation is to converting interest into a purchase

Two other artists have also sold three works
View of one of the long walls in the Main Gallery
I'm a fan of the landscape paintings of Chris Bennett ROI

Two small works by Chris Bennett ROI
Door at Kentwall Hall £800 and
Statue in the Orangery, Belton House £800

and the still life art of Dennis Spicer

August Still Life by Dennis Spicer 
oil 44 x 52 cm £950

Commentary on sales - time for artists and art societies to think again?


A Generic comment


This is very much a GENERIC COMMENT - leading up to one very much specific to the ROI.

I keep seeing silly prices for artwork displayed at the Mall Galleries - in both art society exhibitions and art competitions. 

I have been seeing this more and more of late. It's almost as if artists have forgotten we've just been through a long and arduous recession during which many people had no salary rises at all for lengthy periods and/or their businesses went under and/or the value of many pensions dropped and house prices dropped too!  Plus we're going into a period of economic turbulence one way or another.

I totally fail to understand the levels of inflation that some artists have applied to their prices over the last 10 years. We simply are not in the same situation we were in prior to 2008 and the banking crash.

I can only conclude that the individuals in question have lost touch with the reality of art sales.

The fans of artists who now command high prices for large works are typically only going to be found in the commercial art galleries which exhibit their work on an ongoing basis. Small works by the same artists do sell successfully in the Mall Galleries by those who like to own one of their works - but for much reasonable prices.

One of the walls in the Threadneedle Space
Artists need to remember the art market and art societies are not immune to economic pressures. Today, we are in an era when
  • major and long-standing retailers are going to the wall, 
  • while others are retrenching in a very major way by closing retail outlets 
In my view, it's about time art societies and exhibition organisers started playing a much more rigorous role around silly prices i.e you contact the artist and say their work can be exhibited but not at that price.

The David Shepherd Foundation does this all the time with great effect in relation to the number of sales that exhibition achieves. They know their market, they know their buyers and they know the relative value of one piece of art against another - and they know how to raise money for charity!

I'm going to write more about pricing and sales in another post - in the New Year - because I really do think artists need to get real about what sells and what prices are affordable within specific contexts.  This is a comment which applies just as much to members as it does to non-members who may not be familiar with prices in London.

An ROI specific comment


This ROI exhibition really needs to earn more red spots in future.  An art society is about supporting the careers of people who are (or are aspiring to be) professional artists - just as much as it is about sharing art and promoting the enjoyment of art. Plus an exhibition which is known to sell well always attracts good quality entries from artists who want to be part of that experience - and also attracts buyers!

I do not like seeing a painting by a Chinese artist with a ridiculous sale price - for this exhibition on the wall of the gallery. It really does not matter if it achieves that price elsewhere, it is simply not going to sell at £47,000 in this exhibition and its size is preventing a number of paintings by other artists being hung which might sell and help the career of artists based in the UK.
[Note: I looked up this Chinese artist who lives in China and was none too impressed by the way he paints brides (which he calls 'ethnic minority women') wrapped in paper(!) - it's not really a theme that appeals to too many women]

The painting top left is priced at £47,000

Small works in the Main Gallery - one of Linda Alexander's sold paintings with a red dot at the top.
One can speculate as to some of the reasons why there aren't more red spots but one very obvious one is that there are far too many works in this exhibition with silly prices - that will never sell.

I'll give a small taster below of what I mean below - based on going around the exhibition again on Friday (two days before the end) and extracting the sales data from the walls - and coming back home and constructing a spreadsheet.

More small works on the Mezzanine Wall
In very simple terms:
  • nearly 75% of the sales relate to small and small/medium works which are selling for under £2,000 - with most selling for less than £1,000
  • three painters have sold three or more works - Lucy McKie, Linda Alexander and David Pilgrim - with a value of a third of total sales to date.
  • there are too many works on the walls which stand absolutely no chance of selling - because they are priced too high for the middle England, middle income, middle class audience that the Mall Galleries attracts who will buy art for between £300 and £1,500 - but above that sales are not frequent unless the artist makes sure they submit their best work and then makes sure their collectors come to the show to buy (as opposed to selling to them direct before the show!!!). Specifically........
  • 32 works - 10% of the show - are priced between £5,000 and £47,000 - and NOT A SINGLE ONE HAS SOLD!
    • members have 17 works priced between £5,300 and £32,500
    • non-members have 15 works priced between £5,200 and £47,000
Some of it is good art, some of it is overly ambitious pricing - for this exhibition.  It would be interesting to know when ANY of the artists last sold works priced over £5,000 in this exhibition.

I understand when the selection panel are choosing works to hang they only look at the art and do not know the price. I very much recommend they revise that policy for next year's exhibition.



Previous Exhibitions


This was the Call for Entries - Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition 2018

You can find links to my previous reviews of exhibitions below.