It’s been denounced over the years as an irrelevance and derided more recently by one particular newspaper for being ‘a glorified car boot sale’ but for over 250 years the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition has been proudly showcasing the latest trends in art.
The dismissive article, in a popular broadsheet, criticised the RASE for having the temerity to sell its exhibits (the paper compared the arrangement with how things were done in the early 18th century) and concluded that the exhibition was unfit for purpose. However, one angry journalist aside, the fact remains that the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition remains the largest open submission exhibition in the world.
Over 1,200 works by a dizzying range of artists are showcased at the event every year and although the exhibits do vary in quality (some believe this to be part of the exhibition’s charm) RASE regularly includes work by some of the country’s leading artists.
Another criticism frequently levelled at the Royal Academy show is that the volume of exhibits means that it is all but impossible to find ‘the good stuff’. However, these critics are surely missing the point. It is this very depth and breadth that gives the exhibition its power. The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition’s remit is to showcase everything you could ever wish to see in an art show.
Most major UK galleries restrict themselves to the same narrow circle of artists and art each year in the belief that it is the big established names that the public wishes to see. Whether true or not, this means that UK art lovers very rarely see works by so called “lesser” artists – works which might challenge the visitor’s own perceptions of what is good.
However, the beauty of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is that the show’s organisers never insult the public’s intelligence by assuming they know what we like. On the contrary, the exhibition achieves the far more difficult task of leaving their visitors to come to their own conclusions. In this writer’s opinion, this is what makes this seemingly antiquated old chesnut as relevant today as it has ever been.
The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition will return in the summer of 2021.
For more information on the exhibition, please click here.
For information on other art events in London, please click here.