RA Summer Exhibition

A collage of creativity

Diverse, inspiring and actually taking place over winter instead this year, the iconic Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is a true one-off. Work by celebrated artists and Royal Academy members appears alongside pieces by up-and-coming names in the world’s biggest open submission showcase. Anyone can enter and (almost) anything goes.

A major annual highlight of the global art scene since the 18th century - even going ahead in 2020! - it has always been devoted to showcasing contemporary art in all its forms, and modern visitors can expect a spectacular variety of sculpture and paintings, photography and film – co-ordinated by an artist and a committee of Royal Academicians.

From the secret-recipe beef tea served exclusively to the committee, to the now-infamous spat between Constable and Turner, this is an exhibition steeped in drama and tradition. Historically, artists come together on Varnishing Day to add the final brushstrokes and polish to their pieces once hung. To this day, they continue to gather at the Royal Academy courtyard before a steel band leads a procession along Piccadilly to St. James’s Church, where the artists receive a pre-show blessing.

Previous years have seen submissions from John Singer Sargent, Thomas Gainsborough, Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas, Grayson Perry and even Winston Churchill – under a pseudonym. As well as lining up household names with amateur artists, there’s a further twist to the Summer Exhibition: most of the pieces are available to purchase and part of the proceeds goes towards supporting the 17 young artists chosen to study each year at the Royal Academy’s own art school.

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22nd September 2021 - 2nd January 2022


Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House