Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Goes Digital With Record Breaking Submissions

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition has announced that all entry forms for the 2014 show have now sold out. New to the exhibition this year is a digital system of submission, which has revolutionised the selection process. It has been a resounding success and 4000 entrants have been vetted, curated and selected from 12,000 submissions. These will now comprise a shortlist to be narrowed down for the final display.

Held without interruption since 1769, the Summer Exhibition is the largest open submission exhibition in the world, displaying works in a variety of mediums and genres by emerging and established artists. The works are selected and hung by Royal Academicians and entry is open to all artists. In 2013, nearly seventy per cent of the exhibits were by non-Academicians, seventy thousand pounds’ worth of prizes were awarded and over five thousand works were sold.

This year the Summer Exhibition Co-ordinator Hughie O’Donoghue will work alongside the Selection and Hanging Committee which includes
Eileen Cooper, Gus Cummins, Richard MacCormac, John Maine, Chris Orr, Cornelia Parker, Eric Parry and Emma Stibbon

So what’s different this year? Artists were only able to complete and submit their entry forms online via a dedicated website. During the online submission process, artists will be asked to upload digital photographs of their artworks. The Royal Academicians on the Selection Committee reviewed all the images uploaded, from which they choose 4,000 shortlisted works to be delivered to the RA for a second round of selection. All notifications will be sent by email and artists will be able to monitor the progress of their submissions by visiting their online accounts at any time.

What are the reasons behind the change? It is recognised that the delivery of artworks to the Academy poses practical and financial challenges for many artists, especially those living outside London and those whose works are large, or fragile. In recent years sculpture and architecture entries have been shortlisted from photographs. The system has been well received by entrants, and painters and printmakers have often asked if they can submit photographs of their works. ‘The Academy is aware that this is a significant change for artists and the Summer Exhibition Selection and Hanging Committee alike,’ explains Charles Saumarez Smith, the RA’s Secretary and Chief Executive. ‘The deliberations and agreement on the final system we are working to put in place were keenly debated by all the Royal Academicians, the majority of whom have had first-hand experience of serving on the Selection and Hanging Committee.’

Why is this a better system for artists? Artists will find out whether they have been shortlisted as soon as the judges have reached their decisions. They will only have to deliver their work to the Academy if it is shortlisted, and if it is not selected at the first stage, they will be able to enter it for other competitions and exhibitions, rather than waiting until the end of May before they can retrieve it.

Will this mean there will be more entries? We will cap the number of entries at 12,000, which is well above what we have received in recent years.

How will this affect the judging process? The judging process will be more intensive. The Academicians will meet in early March to judge the digital images, from which they will select up to 4,000 artworks to be delivered to the Academy in April, when they reconvene for a second session. Works selected at this stage will be taken up to the galleries in May when they will be considered again.

How will the digital images be viewed by the Selection Committee? Led by the President, the Committee will sit in formal sessions and view each work separately. Images will be shown on a large, high definition screen, with only the medium and measurements being given.

Will it cost the same to enter? Yes, an artist will still be able to enter up to two works for a handling charge of £25 per work.

What is the schedule for entries? The entry period will be reduced to allow for the additional round of judging. Online entry will open on 6 January and close on 14 February, by which date the artist will need to submit their online form and upload images of their artworks. Artists will receive the results of the first round in mid-March and those who are shortlisted will be invited to deliver their work to the Academy in mid-April. The results of the second round will be given in early May and final notifications about whether an artist’s work has been included in the exhibition will be sent in late May. Exhibitors will receive an information pack, which will include an exhibitor’s card and an invitation to the artists’ preview.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2014 Takes Place 9 June – 17 August

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