The Quest of Amateur Artists at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Gain insights into the rigorous selection process of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, a prestigious platform offering a golden chance for amateur artists.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is a prestigious event for amateur artists to showcase their work, but the selection process is intense, with less than 10% of submissions making it to the final exhibition.
The 2023 exhibition, coordinated by David Remfry, saw over 11,200 entries, from which 998 artists were chosen. The selection process is overseen by the Summer Exhibition committee.
The journey of acceptance and rejection at the Academy can be a roller-coaster ride, with even renowned artists facing rejection. Some artists, like Alison Aye, embrace their rejections, viewing them as badges of honour.

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: A Spotlight on the Makers and the Breakers

There’s a special kind of anticipation in the air that comes around every summer in the heart of London. Yes, it’s that time of the year again – the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. The prestigious event has been the dream destination for many budding artists for over two and a half centuries. Now, the question remains, how stiff is the competition, and who are some notable artists that failed to crack the code?

A Closer Look at the ‘World’s Largest Open Submission Exhibition’

This globally acclaimed exhibition, a continuous tradition since 1769, has showcased the works of many renowned artists, including David Hockney, Grayson Perry, and Thomas Gainsborough. Over the years, it has offered a unique platform for amateur artists to showcase their talents to the public, possibly even scoring a sale of their work.

However, the competition is daunting. For instance, this year witnessed over 11,000 hopeful artists submitting their work, but a mere 10% managed to secure their art a spot. The submission limit stands at 16,500 entries per year, reflecting the massive interest and competitive nature of this event.

Who Holds the Reins?

The summer showcase of 2023 is steered by David Remfry, a respected Royal Academician, under the theme “Only Connect.” Despite his prestigious status now, Remfry was once in the shoes of the hopeful artists, having had his share of rejections after his first successful submission in 1972.

With 11,204 entries from the public this year, only 998 artists got their golden ticket. A total of 1,613 artworks will grace the event, including creations from the successful public submissions, Royal Academicians, and invited artists. The decision-making rests in the hands of the Summer Exhibition committee, led by Rebecca Salter, the president of the Royal Academy.

The Judging Process

To get a place in this eminent exhibition, artists begin their journey in January by submitting their entries at a fee of £38. From an influx of 16,500 digital submissions, the committee shortlists about 4,000 pieces. The selected artists are then invited to the Academy for a second round of judgment, narrowing down the list to approximately 1,000 successful entries.

Besides the prestigious exposure, acceptance can be financially rewarding with about £70,000 in prize money scattered across several categories. All the artworks are available for purchase, some even fetching over £10,000 in the past.

The Taste of Rejection

Interestingly, several acclaimed artists have been turned down by the Academy, including landscape painter John Constable and French artist Edouard Manet, whose works now garner millions. In 2018, Banksy, the famous street artist, experienced rejection when he submitted a piece under an alias. He later resubmitted under his real name and was accepted.

The exhibition is a roller coaster of hopes and dreams, with artists like Alison Aye persistently trying for over two decades without success. Despite the rejections, she takes it as a “badge of honour” and enjoys the concept of rejection.

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