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The Royal Academy's call for Summer Exhibition submissions


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The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is a celebration of the British art scene, creating a unique insight into the talent to be found in contemporary art. Acclaimed artists and emerging talent are united in one space, with artworks of a variety of mediums spanning all surfaces of the gallery.

The iconic institution is now accepting submissions for their upcoming exhibition, with each of the 12,000 first-round entries going through a rigorous selection process, and just over 1,000 pieces of art making it into the final hang. These works are chosen and organised by the Selection and Hanging Committee, made up of Royal Academicians. Each one is given a personal room to curate, and this year, British artist Jock McFayden RA has the job of coordinating the 251st exhibition, following on from the success of Grayson Perry last year.

Installation View of the 2018 Summer Exhibition. Photo credit: Stu Smith via CreativeCommons.

McFayden expressed his vision for his show in his statement: "The focus this year will be on artwork in all media which respond to the contemporary world. I hope to welcome back many of the artists who have been exhibiting at the Royal Academy over the last few years and look forward to presenting new artists in the exhibition."

RA’s summer show allows for the breaking down of boundaries between established talent and amateur artists. This flattening of hierarchies gives everyone ample opportunity to shine in a competitive environment, with this multiplicity of opinions producing a collage-like display of works that harks back to the historical salon shows. This is a world away from the white walls of conventional gallery spaces, where works are shown in isolation. Instead, the pieces are in constant conversation with one another, creating a collaborative atmosphere that can’t be witnessed anywhere else.

A sculpture piece from the 2018 Summer Exhibition. Photo credit: Sam Town via CreativeCommons.

Last year’s 250th show saw works by David Hockney, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin contribute to this celebration of creativity. Politically-charged pieces also took centre stage, drawing on the current climate. Renowned graffiti artist Banksy’s take on the Ukip placard “Vote to Leave” that was transformed into a more inspiring message “Vote to Love” and was widely praised, yet David Griffith’s portrait of “Mr Brexit” Nigel Farage failed to sell. These controversies help to create a diverse and relevant show, with works from invited artists, Royal Academicians and submitted works responding directly to modern British society.

Not only do unknown artists take advantage of this platform, but famous figures do too. Comedians Joe Lycett, Harry Hill and Vic Reeves have all entered their own works in the past, exploring their own creativity in a slightly more humorous way. Lycett’s sculpture ‘Chris’, for example, came with a price tag of £12,500,000 last year: a comedic take on how expensive the contemporary art market can be. Most of the artworks in the exhibition will be for sale, with proceeds from certain works either funding the RA’s education programmes and other non-profit making activities or claimed by the artists themselves.

Installation view of the 2018 Summer Exhibition // Image credit: Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition is a cumulation of the brightest contemporary artists in Britain today, bringing together the humorous and the political, the absurd and the traditional, all in a historic building setting.  This is the celebration of the new in the presence of the past.

The deadline for digital submissions is 13 February 2019, and the final list of exhibitors will be announced in May. More information about the upcoming exhibition can be found on the Royal Academy’s website, and you can apply here.

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