We are thrilled to be able to host once again a physical Annual Exhibition in our magnificent galleries – but this is not business as usual.
The 2022 Annual Exhibition encompasses both the physical and virtual, combining a show of installed works in the Academy with online works shown on our new website as companions to or in tandem with work in the galleries. Work on show is by elected and honorary artists and architects Academicians, invited artists, work selected through open submission and memorial presentation of those Academicians we have recently lost.
This year’s curation has been designed as an exuberant celebration of visual ideas, creative dexterity, and visceral generosity. Work by Academicians, invited artists and from open submission are intertwined, sitting ‘cheek by jowl’ throughout the galleries and we hope seamlessly, but at times gloriously discordant and playful.
The impact of Covid-19 has further distorted the way artworks are now viewed, evaluated, and contextualised. It fast-tracked online exhibitions to the top table, taking advantage of the unlimited real estate and a digital dust trail. With the loss of visceral shared experiences and expectations guiding our senses, all eyes were focussed on our digital devices. Artists and curators were finding opportunities to engage their work beyond their established confines, whatever their location, reputation, or status. Audiences now expect the exhibitions to involve more than a trip to the venue and a catalogue: they want to be able to experience, engage and participate in an immersive way, whether they visit in person or not. This was our challenge as we prepared for our first Annual Exhibition back in the galleries since 2019.
At the heart of the Annual Exhibition is the showcase of new and recent work by its elected and honorary membership comprising of around 120 Academicians and 4 Honorary Academicians. As these new works, many large in scale, ambitious and complex, were unpacked in the galleries, it was clear this year’s Annual Exhibition will be a celebration of the resilience and potency of art to navigate and interface with recent events.
From the ‘call for entries’ the open submission enabled artists to submit up to two works: any size, medium and format, and at whatever stage in their career. This year, building on the success of the two previous online-only Annual Exhibitions, all first round ‘pre-selected’ works are shown online and will be a full part of the overall exhibition through promotion, sales and consideration for prizes. Spoiled for choice, but with the constraints of space, we are delighted that we have been able to select and show almost 200 of these works in the galleries.
Instagram and other social media is providing artists with the ability to share still and moving images, documentation, receive feedback and engage with an international audience that has changed the paradigm for many. This year each member of the selection and curatorial team (known as the ‘Committee of Arrangements’) invited an artist or artists they discovered or engaged with via social media. In the spirit of this year’s show, each artist is exhibiting one physical work and up to two addition works online. These nine invited artists are from across the UK, some new emerging talents and others more established. Many have created brand new work for the show; for example Debbie Lee’s ‘Let Loose in the Galleries’ speaks of her joy to be returning to show in Edinburgh. Laura Footes’ ‘The Corpse Flower’ is based on her memory the rare flowering of the world’s largest plant in Edinburgh’s Botanic Garden. More information about each invited artist and additional works can be found on the RSA website. The nine artists are: Jackie Berridge; Laura Footes; Debbie Lee; Michael Johnson; Brian McFie; Lyndsey Gilmour; Tessa Lynch; Mike Pratt; Jack Handscombe.
I cannot thank enough the incredible team of fellow Academicians who made up this year’s Committee of Arrangements: Michael Agnew, Fiona Dean, Kenny Hunter, Keith McIntyre, and Toby Paterson. Each brought their own unique perspective and added flavour and nuance akin to their discipline and perspective. All left their egos at home as we searched for a cohesive exhibition experience with changes of pace and pathos in a wonderful spirit of dialogue and collaboration.
I must also thanks Charlie Sutherland RSA, Deputy Convenor for Architecture, who alongside Rab Bennett have curated this year’s submissions from Architect members and from open submission. It looks superb.
The organisation and logistics of the Annual is a huge operation taking months of careful planning and development. The RSA has an incredible and dedicated staff team who are the real stars that make this show happen. I want to take this opportunity to thank Amy Cameron, Programme Coordinator, whose ability to calmly deal with logistics, artists, and first time Convenors is just incredible. I also want to thank Flora La Thangue, Gallery Manager, whose curatorial prowess was so helpful and vital throughout the installation. Both Amy and Flora lead a team of dedicated staff who unwrapped, moved, arranged, moved again, rewrapped and positioned artwork throughout the weeks as we miraculously found spaces to install work.
Lastly I want to thank Neil McIntosh and his expert team of joiners, makers, installers as they work miracles making our vision a reality.
Robbie Bushe RSA
Convenor of the 196th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy
Find out more