The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016

I am delighted to have a piece selected and hanging in this well established prestigious exhibition.

Petrol Pump4web

Petrol Pump by Camilla Fanning

This exhibition has been going strong for nearly 250 years, established by Joshua Reynolds.  It has it’s roots in the ‘Ancient Academies’ of Artists which developed from the guilds of the quattrocento and renaissance era,  that were the effective union of their day, and most importantly the final arbiters of taste. The Academies by the 19th C were calling all the shots, declaring artists good or bad, in or out; the buying public followed suit. At least that is until that famous schism of the French Academy with the Impressionists.

ra blog june 8 013     RA london june 079

Over the centuries the Royal Academy has gone through phases of stagnation only to renew itself and re-establish it’s relevance. At the moment it is particularly reinvigorated with a wonderfully eclectic membership of artists working in a wide variety of genres and media. This is reflected in the selections made for the Summer Exhibition 2016.

This year for the first time ever there is an online gallery of all of the exhibition with the works available for sale.  We are all cautiously optimistic that this will have a real impact.  Here it is.    (for more information feel free to contact me directly at or leave a reply below.  See more works here.)

Varnishing Day

Well, this was a hoot! It has been a tradition from the beginning and is a day to celebrate the artists in the exhibition and indeed artists in general.  In it’s day it was a last chance for the exhibitors to see how there works looked in situ, make a fuss, or even some corrections.  These day’s it’s more of an excuse for shin-dig.

First things first, we collected our exhibitor pack and the small price list booklet.

pack invite

The artists gather in the courtyard, overseen by Sir Joshua himself, and the annual Summer Show Commission of a major sculptural work. We parade out led by a steel band and church leaders, the Academicians present at the front, but after that a general melee.

RA london june 025 joshua

The special service for artists was across the way at St James church and we stopped the traffic on Piccadilly to get to it!

RA london june 042 RA london june 033

There was also a wonderful sermon by Revd Lindsay Meader all about how important artists are – which of course we lapped up!

Then back to Burlington House for the first view of the exhibition and a very generous reception.  We all guzzled for a while, prosecco flowing, then everyone scooted around the exhibition to find out where their work had been hung.

RA london june 066   RA london june 063

I found mine (in the middle) on a choice piece of wall and in very good company!

The Application Process

These days no self respecting application process goes without a full on registration process to start with. the RA is no different . Short version – it all takes time! From the very start it is clear that this is going to be a long process and that’s that.

This is all done online, and there are a limited number of ‘slots’ available; They sell out quite quickly.

So, having registered to apply, the application then gets sent in. Joyfully this year we could send in a jpeg of the work in the first instance, thus saving a small fortune in shipping costs until we know we had at least got as far as the short list. I wish every open sub did this at the very least.

Of course we have to pay to enter, in sterling! So the cost-clock starts ticking right away. I decided in a fit of enthusiasm to do two, there was some complicated instructions to the effect that I  had to decide there and then, and no adding on afterwards, no refunds for any change of mind. So, in for a penny in for a pound – I booked the two application ‘slots’.

With hindsight it occurs to me know that it is in my best interest to send in a hard copy reproduction quality  jpeg as it is that much more likely to end up in the final catalogue if it gets that far. But that would require a level of hubris I lacked at the start of this first ever submission to the Royal Academy of London Summer Exhibition.

The selection process

We all wait for the email. The one that says if we have made it to the next round. the first submission is global with over 12000 entries, this is reduced to 4000 for the next round.  I get this far. Another email arrives to say I am now in the last and final selection of about 1000 entries. Both prints are still in the running. but I am still not certain if either will be hung. I am delighted to have got this far in the selection process!

We get an email looking for a short artist bio – just in case. a separate email for this. I sort this out. These things always take longer than you think, and the requests always happen at the most inconvenient times. I file away the memory of all of this for future use.

And now the Kafkaesque dance that is UK  VAT registration  begins. The RA requires it of every exhibiting artist. Even from ‘overseas.’  I have to register for something else first, emails and alerts fill my inbox. Finally I can apply for the VAT number itself. I scan every ID document I have and sent it off. I promise to sell something, but not a lot. As the deadline to send in this number approaches – and while I still don’t know if I am in the exhibition or not – a useful looking envelope arrives. I ignore it for a day or so, I am complacent, knowing that I have just received the much needed VAT number.  I sit down to send this in the the RA, open it, and to my alarm and horror discover it is a few more pages of application clobber! Sign this, fill in this, define the value of sales (do I look like a fortune teller?). I phone the UK VAT  Ministry. Get a helpful bod at the end. I can sign and scan it, send it in. All is not lost! cue another evening of faffing with scanners and paperwork. THIS is the real ‘life of an artist’! The bit no one sees! Finally I call to ask where to find it, am informed it’s on my online account; cue rooting for the password. I get in, search it, and can’t find it. The deadline is now 24 hours away.

I email the Royal Academy bod. I send him a copy of the announcement  that I do in fact have a VAT number, and explain that I can’t find it, but it’s only a mater of time; it will follow.

He send me back a thank you, and tells me that  it’s on the third line, and he has already done the necessary. Phew.

Paperwork. The bane of every creative life!


I see the word congratulations before anything else. One print has been accepted. The email has a longer preamble, the standard this year was very high blah blah blah. I don’t care – I have a print hanging in the Royal Academy.

They tell me the Exhibitor pack is there to picked up at reception for us overseas exhibitors. Am dying to get my mitts on it.

Now the pace picks up with a vengeance. These emails were sent on the Saturday preceding the Friday of the main event for artists – Varnishing Day. I consult a friend who has done this before, is it worth the cost and hassle of going to be there. Yes, she says, very definitely yes!! So I decide to go. I lose the will to live trawling online comparison sites looking for a cheap  – last minute – flight to London.  In summer. At an Irish bank holiday weekend. Brilliant! But my efforts pay off, and I am going!

Will I apply again?? – I’ll say! It was brilliant! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some Reviews

The Londonist



Nine things to know about the Summer Exhibition


3 responses to “The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016

  1. Congratulations; Well deserved recognition of your artistic skill (though perhaps not of your pricing skill!)

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