LONDON - The Royal Academy is to present this year’s Summer Exhibition, which has been delayed to the autumn for the first time in its long history due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The exhibition will take place in London from 06 October 2020 to 03 January 2021.

At a time when artists have been denied important opportunities to show work, the 252nd Summer Exhibition will be a unique celebration of contemporary art and architecture, providing a vital platform and support for the artistic community. It remains the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show and has been held every year without interruption since 1769, even throughout the war years.

Jane and Louise Wilson RA are co-ordinators of the 252nd Summer Exhibition in 2020, the first time it is curated by an artistic duo. Working with the rest of the Summer Exhibition Committee they seek to challenge the definition of what community is and what form collective communities can begin to take. Themes this year will reflect upon identity, immigration, contested borders, ecological threat, climate change, pro-democracy protest and landscape, in the form of installation, painting, film, photography and sculpture. Due to exceptional circumstances, much of the preparation for this year’s exhibition has been done virtually for the first time.

Isaac Julien RA is curating the first two galleries and his selection of invited artists is an homage to the late curator and art historian Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019). Many of the artists whose careers Enwezor influenced have contributed work and include Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Theaster Gates, Oscar Murillo, Wangechi Mutu, Chris Ofili and Isaac Julien himself.

Sculptor Richard Deacon RA is curating the sculpture gallery. Two Royal Academicians are curating their galleries virtually; Eileen Cooper is managing prints and Stephen Farthing is working from Jordan curating galleries 3 and 9. Sonia Boyce RA has encouraged many artists who have never shown at the Summer Exhibition to contribute to her gallery.

Once again, in addition to the large number of public submissions, Royal Academicians and Honorary Academicians will be showcasing new works, including Tracey Emin, Rebecca Horn, Anselm Kiefer, Julian Schnabel, Gillian Wearing and Ai Weiwei.

A new element this year will be the introduction of ‘invisible walls’ in some of the gallery spaces, walls that are suspended from the ceiling on wires to accommodate both two-dimensional works and video screens, adding another dimension to the hang.

Works from all over the world are judged democratically on merit and the final selection is made during the eight-day hang in the galleries. This year the Royal Academy received over 18,000 entries, of which around 1000 works, in a range of media, will go on display. This open, inclusive and democratic show supports the artistic community, art education and provides a display of creativity and joy for the public. Now, more than ever, the Royal Academy is committed to supporting artists and architects and a belief in the restorative power of art.

The majority of works in the Summer Exhibition will be for sale, offering visitors an opportunity to purchase original work. Funds raised support the exhibiting artists, the postgraduate students studying in the RA Schools and the not-for-profit work of the Royal Academy.