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Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015, © The Royal Academy of Arts. Photo: Benjamin Norton
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2015, © The Royal Academy of Arts. Photo: Benjamin Norton

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition: a beginner's guide

Everything you need to know about the summer staple of London's art scene

By Martin Coomer
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The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is the largest open-submission exhibition in the world. For 2015, its 247th year, it'll be serving up its time-honoured mix of painting, printmaking, photography and sculpture by established and unknown artists. It’s a winning formula. Here are five things that make the Exhibition such a unique London event.

 

Five Summer Exhibition facts

© Royal Academy of Arts, London

It's ancient

Held annually since 1769, the Summer Exhibition has showcased the likes of Turner and Constable. But it’s the mixed bag of works by famous names and unknowns
that makes the show unique – and uniquely democratic.

© Royal Academy of Arts, London

It's the biggest

Biggest open-submission exhibition in the world, that is. This year 12,000 entries were received. These were whittled down to 1,262 exhibited works including paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs. Prices from £30.

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© Royal Academy of Arts, London

It loves its customs

Traditionally a day for adding final touches to exhibited works, Non-Members Varnishing Day (Jun 2) is now marked by a steel band performance in the RA courtyard, followed by a celebratory parade of artists to St James’s Piccadilly.

© Royal Academy of Arts, London

It's been vandalised

It’s weathered the storm of many world events, but the Exhibition hasn’t been entirely immune from politics. In 1914 suffragette Mary Wood took a meat cleaver to Sargent’s portrait of author Henry James (photograph of the damaged painting, pictured).

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© Royal Academy of Arts, London

It's fuelled by a strange brew

During the exhibition hang, Academicians knock back fortifying beef tea, an unctuous concoction of Bovril, sherry and water prepared by red collared RA staff. If the pictures are askew, this could be the reason.

Our top picks from Summer Exhibition

Top art features

© Vogue

Photography in London

Art Photography

Our pick of London's current and forthcoming photography exhibitions

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