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RA Summer Exhibition 2021

September 22, 2021 - January 2, 2022

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Delayed until late September due to Covid, The Royal Academy’s 253rd Summer Exhibition, is a unique celebration of contemporary art and architecture, providing a vital platform and support for the artistic community.

Yinka Shonibare RA is the co-ordinator of the Summer Exhibition 2021 and, working with the rest of the Summer Exhibition Committee, will explore the theme of ‘Reclaiming Magic’ to celebrate the joy of creating art. Shonibare said “This exhibition seeks a return to the visceral aspects and the sheer joy of art making. It will celebrate the transformative powers of the magical in art and transcend the Western canon which formed the foundations of the Royal Academy, seeking to restore value to marginalised practices as equally valid forms of enlightenment.”

Invited artists this year will include Michael Armitage, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ellen Gallagher, Rita Keegan, Jade Montserrat, Magdalene Odundo, Faith Ringgold and Betye Saar. New work for the exhibition will be shown by Alvaro Barrington, Angela de la Cruz, Hew Locke, Cassi Namoda, and Lawrence Lemaoana, who has created a large-scale textile kanga. The exhibition will be anchored to a special dedication to the self-taught American artist Bill Traylor (1853 – 1949) who was born into slavery and only began to draw his recollections and observations in 1939. Further self-taught artists will include Souleymane Fall, Nnena Kalu, Frantz Lamothe, Bärbel Lange, Marie-Rose Lortet, Frank Walter and Johnson Weree.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
Bikes of Hanoi – Fish Man by Jon Enoch

This year, the Summer Exhibition will expand beyond the spatial and visual with a sound programme.

The programme, which is intended to be played through personal headphones to enhance the experience of the exhibition, will include soundscapes and poetry by six artists. It will be available for visitors to download in advance of their visit via a QR code on the RA website as well as at the entrance to the exhibition.

Having been unable to take part in last year’s exhibition due to the pandemic, David Adjaye RA is now curating this year’s Architecture Room which will consider architecture through the expression of ‘Climate and Geography (or vice versa)’ focusing on the context of site, geography, climate, political climate, people, community and culture. Royal Academician architects featured will include Farshid Moussavi, Richard Rogers and Caruso St John, and invited architects will include Sean Canty, Counterspace and Atelier Masomi. As part of the sound programme, Peter Adjaye, a conceptual sound artist, has created a ‘soundtrack’ for the Architecture Room.

In addition to the large number of public submissions, Royal Academicians and Honorary Academicians will be showing new works, including Phyllida Barlow, William Kentridge, Conrad Shawcross, Wolfgang Tillmans and Rose Wylie. John Akomfrah RA will have a dedicated gallery showing his video work Peripeteia, 2012.

The Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show and has taken place every year without interruption since 1769. 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 15,000 entries, of which around 1200 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.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

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 work of the Royal Academy.

Summer Exhibition 2021 online

Many of the works in the Summer Exhibition 2021 will be available to browse and buy online through the Summer Exhibition Explorer which will be live from Wednesday 22 September 2021.

Dates and Opening Hours

Wednesday 22 September 2021 – Sunday 2 January 2022; 10am – 6pm Tuesday to Sunday (last admission 5.30pm).


From £20; concessions available; under 16s go free (T&Cs apply); Friends of the RA go free. Admission prices include the List of Works giving details on every exhibit in the show.


Advance booking is essential for everyone, including Friends of the RA. All visitors must have a pre-booked timed ticket to enter the building. Tickets can be booked in advance online at or over the phone (0207 300 8090).



September 22, 2021
January 2
Event Category:



Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London,W1J 0BDUnited Kingdom
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020 7300 8090