Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: Did you know?

By | Posted on 24-Jun-2019

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: Did you know?

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is now closed for 2019. Be sure to check back for 2020’s exhibition!

With annual exhibitions taking place since 1769, the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy has become a key date in an artist’s calendar. Bringing together the world’s best examples of prints, painting, photography, sculptures by leading artists and upcoming talent soon to make their mark, those who enter the doors can be treated to a masterclass in all forms of visual arts. With the 251st Summer Exhibition taking place this year, read all about the exhibition here and book your tickets now.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

The exhibition was to promote art and design

In 1768, King George III wished to hold an art showcase, in which members of the public could submit their work to be shown. Aiming to revive British arts and crafts, the monarch was keen to be involved in the exhibition’s early years, offering Somerset House as a location and even selecting artists to feature in the summer showcase. As a result of the annual exhibition taking place, it can be classified as the longest-running continuously staged exhibition of contemporary art that the world has ever seen!

Thousands of pieces are submitted each year

At the first Summer Exhibition in 1769, 136 pieces of art were showcased throughout the exhibit, with details on each piece that was showcased to be found here. In the 18th century, viewing art was rendered an upper-class activity; a rare activity to take part in. As a result of the exhibition, taking a look at all forms of art became more accessible, with the exhibition becoming an annual fixture in the London art scene. At the 33rdd exhibition in 1801, there were over 1,000 pieces of art on display!

What is Sanctioning Day?

Out of the tens of thousands of applicants who wish to have their work shown, entrants are then whittled down, with 4,000 pieces of work making it to the second selection. After this, a committee (co-ordinated by Jock McFayden) decide upon all works to be shown as part of the Royal Academy’s Exhibition, with the final decisions made on Sanctioning Day to confirm all thoughts for the last time, while drinking a beef tea with a special recipe that’s kept a secret…

It’s not just members of the public that can have their work exhibited

As well as people who may have their art on show for the first time at the Royal Academy, artists and architects who run the Academy can submit works annually, with artists often commissioned to produce new pieces specifically for the exhibition.

Artists can improve upon their work before the exhibition opens

Before the first day, artists can choose to take part in Varnishing Day, adding the last few touches to perfect their work. In the early exhibitions, artists would walk in procession to St James’ Church, where a service would be held to commemorate the works, as well as the shortlists for prize categories.

The best works receive a cash prize

Over £70,000 prize money is awarded at the Summer Exhibition, including the £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award. Previous recipients of the Charles Wollaston Award include David Hockney in 1998, Jeff Koons in 2008 and Wolfgang Tillmans in 2014.

You can buy art at the Royal Academy Exhibition

Whether you’re heading to the exhibition or you want to view the entire collection online, don’t miss out on purchasing some of the art! As artists sell their work with proceeds going to the funding of Royal Academy schools, you’ll be able to take home a unique memento of the Royal Academy exhibition and relive the memories of all the art on show, before visiting year on year.