RA summer exhibition: losing transparency

First published in The Jackdaw ♯50, July/August 2005

The RA should come clean about its intentions. It was instituted to help artists not cheat them. Whereas once the Summer Exhibition was a 400 Bad Request bazaar for the otherwise disfranchised it is now being recreated as a curated exhibition with the usual sly interference from State Art.  One strongly suspects that were

the Royal Academy not desperate for cash, the Summer Exhibition would already be an invitation only enterprise. The way for artists to get their own back on this mercenary state of affairs is next year to ignore the call and not send in any works at all.

The space wasted in the Summer Exhibition is the same this year as last with an entire room given over to Honorary RAs, foreigners such as Baselitz, who is represented as usual by a laughable daub. The likes of Rauschenberg and Tapies don’t need this exposure. And neither does Californian artist Ed Ruscha, who gets a room to himself. Ruscha is an interesting photographer, but a retrospective of his work is currently touring the country – enough’s surely enough. There would also seem to be entire roomfuls of “invited”  artists, always, it seems, the already frequently exhibited ones of the State Art persuasion

All of this means that those who pay £18 each to have their works considered for entry have a diminishing chance of selection. These willing dupes are shamelessly milked for revenue. Anticipating criticism, the Academy has not this year supplied the usual statistics of entry numbers as against those hung, so that the diminishing chance of inclusion can no longer be easily charted. If artists knew the feeble odds they’d think twice about wasting the maximum £54 as the cost for considering three works for consideration.  Instead of this year’s 9,000 entries (significantly down on previous years, by the way) at £18 each – £162,000 in total – the Academy

400 Bad Request

would be out of pocket.

The Jackdaw Sept-Oct 2011