Art Made Now: The Royal Academy’s 250th summer exhibition

One of the founding principles of the Royal Academy of Arts was to ‘mount an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit’ to finance the training of young artists in the Royal Academy Schools.Since 1769 the Summer Exhibition has been held each year without interruption even throughout both World Wars. In 1917, a bomb from a German Gotha plane dropped through the roof of Gallery IX. The Academy struggled financially as a result of the war, so in 1918, it printed its first ever Summer Exhibition poster in the hope of boosting visitor figures.

William Powell Frith, A private view at the Academy, 1881-1883 (Source:

As the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show, the Summer Exhibition provides a unique platform for emerging and established artists to show their works to an international audience, comprising a range of media from painting and printmaking to photography, sculpture, architecture and film. Royal Academicians are automatically entitled to submit up to six works to the Summer Exhibition and the rest of the exhibition features work by those invited by the committee and external entrants.

This year, the Royal Academy celebrates its 250th Summer Exhibition, and to mark this special occasion, the show is co-ordinated by British artist Grayson Perry, alongside the Summer Exhibition Committee. The show aims to celebrate the democracy of the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show, by displaying a range of art being made in this moment with the theme of ‘Art Made Now’. 

Each summer the Royal Academy’s galleries are jam-packed with contemporary art made by internationally renowned artists and young talents graduating from the Royal Academy of Arts. This year, Grayson Perry and his committee of fellow artists have handpicked over 1,300 artworks in an array of mediums.

Highlights of this year’s show include Anish Kapoor’s (RA) monumental sculpture in the Academy’s courtyard. In the main galleries, David Hockney (RA) shows two vast new works which combine photographs taken from many viewpoints into a single monumental image. The Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos shows an enormous textile work Royal Valkyrie in the Central Hall which revisits and reinterprets palatial fashion with the colours and motifs traditionally from Nisa, a village in Portugal. Banksy shows a new work, Vote to Love, created from a UKIP placard and priced at £350 million.

Further artists include Ed Ruscha (RA) and Wolfgang Tillmans (RA), shown alongside works by Royal Academicians such as Antony Gormley, Michael Landy, Richard Long, Bob and Roberta Smith. As always, most of the art is for sale and purchases help raise money for the Academy’s non-profit activities, including educating the next generation of artists in the Royal Academy Schools.

The exhibition extends across the cultural campus, with prints on display in The Sackler Wing of Galleries and a “Room of Humour” in the new Ronald and Rita McAulay Gallery featuring David Shrigley and Martin Parr. The art extravaganza even spills out into the streets of London’s West End, with an installation of over 200 flags designed by Royal Academicians.

This year the committee has also encouraged ‘outsider artists’ to submit work to display the broadest possible representation of art made now. These practitioners create art without the conventional structures of formal art training and the RA has worked with artists related to the Museum of Everything, The Koestler Trust and Bethlem Museum. 

Opening time + hours: 12 June - 19 August 2018 // 
Daily 10am - 6pm, Friday 10am - 10pm
Address: Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London,W1J 0BD 
Further reading: 
Royal Academy Magazine-Behind the scenes of the summer exhibition
Royal Academy Magazine-Nine things to know about the summer exhibition

Photo credits: Judith Bradlwarter. ©

Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0BD, UK

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