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Gilbert and George in The Royal Academy  © Stephen White
Gilbert and George in The Royal Academy © Stephen White

What To Expect From The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016

Picture of Anne Rybka
Updated: 6 January 2017
Of all the museums to visit in London, the Royal Academy of Arts is arguably one of the most important. As cultural institutions in Britain go, its historic dedication to the arts is near unrivaled and still plays a dominant role in the support of emerging artists today. With the opening of its current Summer Exhibition in London, Culture Trip sheds light on what to expect in 2016, in partnership with The Royal Academy.

A rich history

With the founding of the Royal Academy in 1768, it was decided that ‘an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit’ would be held. The exhibition has been organised since then every single year without interruption, displaying the work of the most renowned British artists of all times, from 18th Century masters Reynolds and Turner to contemporary painters such as David Hockney and Grayson Perry. 

Courtesy of The Royal Academy

The 166th Summer Exhibition, 1934, Courtesy of The Royal Academy

An authentic curation 

One of the things that make the Summer Exhibition so special is the fact that it is solely organised by Royal Academicians. This year, the show is coordinated by two-time Turner nominated artist Richard Wilson RA, one of the most well known sculptors in Britain with notable works that include the critically acclaimed installation 20:50. By employing artists as curators, the exhibition embodies the synergy between artist and audience, becoming a a truly creative and dynamic space. 

Richard Wilson, RA

Richard Wilson, RA, courtesy of The Royal Academy

A varied and lively exhibition

Another factor that makes the Summer Exhibition unique in its own right is its open submissions policy. In welcoming artists regardless of accolades, the Academy hosts a rich and varied display. Indeed, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is one of the only spaces in London where quantity does in fact equal quality: of the 12,000 submissions this year, around 1,200 are now on display. Make sure you leave a few hours to enjoy the whole selection! 

Courtesy of The Royal Academy

A painting presented in front of the judges, courtesy of The Royal Academy

The opportunity to become a collector of established and up and coming artists

Most works shown in the exhibition are offered for sale. This allows artists to gain exposure, and is an opportunity for the Royal Academy to raise funds for the RA schools, ensuring free education for all students.  Alongside these emerging artists are works by leading artists such as Michael Craig-Martin RA. First time visitors and art aficionados alike are able to purchase works for their private collections. 

The Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy, © Stephen White

The Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy, © Stephen White

A combination of tradition and modernity

The Summer Exhibition offers art for every taste, covering all forms of art from traditional works on canvas to large video installations such as Kutluğ Ataman’s ‘The Portrait of Sakip Sabanci’. This year, the focus is on famous artistic duos and works on show include Heather and Ivan Morison, sculpture by brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman and a photographic installation from Jane and Louise Wilson. There is also a whole room dedicated to architecture, curated by Louisa Hutton RA and Ian Ritchie RA.

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‘The Portrait of Sakip Sabanci’ by Kutluğ Ataman, courtesy of The Royal Academy

Free displays

One of the many highlights is Royal Academician Ron Arad’s sculpture Spyre, exhibited in the courtyard of the Academy. The 18 metre tall steel construction is made out of different segments which move independently from each other, leading to a mobile sculpture that constantly changes. If you don’t have time to visit the whole exhibition, or are looking for free art in London, then this is a great opportunity to soak up culture. We recommend kicking back in the sunshine and enjoying the work with a coffee from the courtyard cafe. 

 Michael Craig-Martin at The Royal Academy © Stephen White

Michael Craig-Martin at The Royal Academy © Stephen White

A supportive environment for artists

Every year, the Royal Academy presents prizes of around £50,000 to works that are considered to be outstanding, giving artists an opportunity to distinguish themselves in a competitive art world. This year’s Charles Wollaston award winner is David Nash’s Big Black, monumental in size and currently on display in one of the galleries. The financial rewards mean not only does The Summer Exhibition offer a broad introduction to contemporary art but it also champions artists in an increasingly difficult economic environment. 

The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD, +44 20 7300 8090