Art History Festival | What Is the point of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition?

Tuesday 21 September | 7-8pm
Gallery view of the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Photo: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts

This week, the Royal Academy opens the doors to its 253rd Summer Exhibition, an annual celebration of creativity that has run without interruption (yes, even in a global pandemic) ever since the RA was founded in 1768. But what is the point of the RA Summer Exhibition?

The founding President of the RA, Sir Joshua Reynolds, intended it to raise the standard of art production in Britain, and to improve the level of art appreciation amongst the exhibition-going public. The RA Summer Exhibition has always been an arena for public debate concerning the definition of art. But, more than that, this open-submission annual exhibition, the largest in the world, has become a cultural barometer of the nation, a place to encounter multiple viewpoints on topics of contemporary concern. Discover era defining artworks from the history of the RA Summer Exhibition, and enjoy a sneak preview of 2021 highlights.

This talk is delivered by the Royal Academy of Arts. Lois Oliver is Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Royal Academy, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Notre Dame, and Visiting Lecturer at The Courtauld.