The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1768, The Royal Academy in London decided to hold an annual exhibition of “paintings, sculpture, and design” that would be “open to all artists of distinguished merit” and so began the summer exhibition.

We’ve been attending the summer exhibition on and off for something like ten years and I really love it. We went today, which is the 250th annual event.

As you can see in the photo above, which is from maybe 150 years ago, they pack the walls with art. You can barely see the walls there is so much art on them.

But the thing I love most is the way they hang an unknown twenty-year-old painter next to a Hockney. It really speaks to me and represents an egalitarian approach that is rare in the art world and the worlds beyond art.

You can buy many of the works at the summer exhibition and we have done that a few times over the years. Not today, as many of the works we liked had been sold or were not for sale. But I like that it is a place you can collect and many of the works are not particularly expensive.

If you live in London or the UK, you have likely gone. If not, you should. And if you are not from the UK but find yourself in London this summer, you should go.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LE

    “open to all artists of distinguished merit”I am curious back in the 1700’s what made an artist ‘of distinguished merit’.

    1. fredwilson

      A male, for one thing. Fortunately that is not true and hasn’t been for a good while now

      1. JLM

        .The original 40 founding members included two women – one a daughter of another member.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Richard

          Fred the hammer

      2. jason wright

        in the present climate i’m surprised they let you in ;~)

    2. JLM

      .Except for a very few, they had to belong to the Royal Academy which was part “pricing mechanism” for the great paintings.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. LE

        Which raises the question “how did one get to belong to the Royal Academy”?So I found this, but it doesn’t answer the question on a quick read:…It more or less dances around initial creation of the academy..

        1. Vasudev Ram

          >Which raises the question “how did one get to belong to the Royal Academy”?Maybe by buying a seat or a membership there. I’ve read in English novels (not only about England, also about France, etc.) that in those days (the last few centuries), you could buy a post like in the government or even in a company (apart from getting one via what we in India call “influence” or “pull” :), like from having a rich or powerful uncle, who could “pull” that off for you, etc. That was there in other countries too, of course, like probably China and India, for example. Just mentioning England and Europe because this post is about the former.The interesting thing is that the practice (buying a position, also sinecures) was considered okay and nothing wrong (from what I could gather from what I read) in those days. It’s still done nowadays, of course, even in the more progressive countries, but is considered not okay, so is done under cover.

    3. Twain Twain

      Patronage by landed gentry. The Academy is rooted in the trade guilds tradition from Bologna circa C11th.

      1. Vendita Auto

        Well Grayson Perry would be be proud

          1. Vendita Auto

            “Suburban Tweed” My mum on good day

  2. JLM

    .Seven years after the initiation of this civilized and gracious event, The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the American colonies would rebel against the English and launch the American Revolution.Talk about a bit of egalitarian striving, no?Interesting to look at the works of art and the crowds. Notice how they dress.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. jason wright

      that was an interesting little startup.

      1. JLM

        .The USA has no real appreciation for what an entrepreneur Geo NMI Wasington really was.http://themusingsofthebigre…When you study Washington, you realize how entrepreneurial the US has always been. This generation didn’t discover sex or entrepreneurship.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  3. JimHirshfield

    Are you on vacation, working from London, or both?

    1. Richard

      He seems to be searching the world for social injustice.

      1. JimHirshfield

        How can you be certain?

        1. jason wright

          because he’s in London? Paris is just as bad.

    2. fredwilson

      workation. that’s how we roll.

  4. awaldstein

    Too cool.We just moved to a new apartment and hung art last week. One of my favorite things to and I put a lot of thought into it.Each place is different and can never hang it all.I’ve been collecting and internalizing art my entire life.Thanks for sharing.

  5. Twain Twain

    Anish Kapoor’s ‘Symphony for a Beloved Daughter’ is in the courtyard.@fredwilson:disqus — If you and the Gotham Gal haven’t been yet, there’s Picasso at Tate Modern and The Saatchi Gallery on Kings’ Road.The places for food are the Peruvian COYA (http://www.coyarestaurant.c… all the meat dishes are great) and the Venetian-Japanese SUMOSAN TWIGA (http://www.sumosantwigalond… Atlantic miso cod and they do a salmon rice pizza with Furiyake spices). https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. jason wright…footballers can be such philistines (and Disqus photo framing can be so deceptive).

  6. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:The second photo showed various multi-cultural pieces. That was a joy to view.Our choices we always seek out to support.Betye Saar: Easy DancerSouth of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970sWe Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–-85Alice Neel: UptownNina Chanel Abney: Royal FlushKerry James MarshallMark Bradford: Tomorrow is Another DayTerry Adkins: RecitalMexican Artist Frida Kahlo (We enjoy her exhibits)Best Underground locations in NYC to view the Underground Art scene.Kimberly Klark (788 Woodward Ave, Queens)MILLER (17 Essex Street, New York)To Bridges (2422 Third Ave, Bronx)Fastnet (Columbia Street, Brooklyn)The Chimney (202 Morgan Avenue, Brooklyn)Captain Obvious!#UNEQUIVOCALLYUNAPOLOGETICALLYINDEPENDENT

  7. Sierra Choi

    There is also the Slade School of Art, where nearly all the famous British artists have attended, just across the pond near Euston Tube Station. I also like the degree shows at Bartlett School of Architecture. The Royal Academy I prefer for jewellery design and fashion.

    1. Pete Griffiths

      Completely agree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Twain Twain

        Also Goldsmiths: Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Steve McQueen.

  8. Pete Griffiths

    Totally agree.And if I may make a related suggestion. Try going to the end of year student exhibitions at the elite art schools like St. Martin’s. Some fantastic stuff and you help a young study with your purchases.

  9. jason wright

    does Google Lens enhance the experience?

    1. jason wright

      great minds…but isn’t everyone in London?

      1. William Mougayar

        Judging by the busy streets and traffic jams, indeed!