With a history stretching back nearly 250 years, the Royal Academy of Arts' annual Summer Exhibition has withstood world wars and seismic cultural change to remain an uninterrupted fixture in the British art world's calendar. Now in its 247th year, 2015's Summer Exhibition is a meticulously curated selection of works from contemporary artists the world over, some emerging, some established. But, just what is it that has kept audiences enthralled for centuries? From its inception to the present day form, we look back on a showcase of artistic excellence. Click to enter the Reiss X Royal Academy of Arts competition


Founded by King George III in 1768, the Royal Academy of Arts has been a beacon of creative excellence for over 200 years and continues this tradition today.

The institution's very first Summer Exhibition took place in 1769 and has been held every year ever since with the key aim of showcasing noteworthy works from all sorts of artists for the public to see.

Each year, the Summer Exhibition Selection and Hanging Committee whittle down tens of thousands of entries and are faced with the task of effectively arranging these distinct works in a way which feels coherent to the viewing public.

Shrouded by heritage and tradition, today's Summer Exhibition shares many of the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities which have defined the showcase over the years. Perhaps the most memorable of these is the tradition of drinking a sherry-infused beef tea during the hanging of works by the Committee.


Cross the threshold of the Royal Academy of Arts' already imposing gates, and you'll be met in the courtyard by the arresting sight of Conrad Shawcross RA's installation, The Dappled Light of the Sun. A collection of abstract steel clouds, the large-scale six metre tall work is formed of thousands of tiny steel tetrahedrons, with each cloud weighing a staggering five tonnes.

Conrad Shawcross RA said of his creation: “The Greeks considered the tetrahedron to represent the very essence of matter. In this huge work I have taken this form as my ‘brick’, growing these chaotic, diverging forms that will float above the heads of visitors who will be able to wander beneath them."

The visual spectacle doesn't stop there however. The venue's neo-classical staircase has been adorned with an installation piece by Jim Lambie. Consisting of hundreds of pieces of coloured vinyl tape, the floor-based installation creates a psychedelic aesthetic experience which leads straight into the heart of the Summer Exhibition.


Encompassing the most promising emerging and established talent from the art world, 2015's Summer Exhibition is the institution's 247th presentation. From painting, print making and photography to sculpture and architecture, the exhibition showcases a dizzying array of over 1,200 works in an impressive range of mediums.

Leading artist and teacher Michael Craig-Martin RA led the arrangement of artworks to impressive effect. Each piece, though distinct, truly feels like it belongs as part of one big explosion of artistic talent. Under the moniker, Explosion of Colour, this year's exhibition marks a departure of form and works are arranged in rooms, each of which has been painted in a different vibrant colour.

We've teamed up with the iconic institution to offer you the chance to win a VIP weekend in London and tickets to this year's Summer Exhibition. Find out how to enter here