Wednesday, October 29, 2008

RHA Annual Robbery

The RHA in Ely Place is a fine venerable old institution - long may it thrive. It's a great space, very accessible, and has lost a lot of its traditional fustiness. Ok, the members still have to don their anachronistic drag on special occasions but they are a younger brighter bunch, full of fresh initiatives - eduction, life-drawing, innovative shows etc.

However, there is one serious blot on its escutcheon. The annual open submission show, once a wonderful platform for up and coming and established artists, has become increasingly difficult to get into. Perhaps this is because the age profile of the academicians has decreased and these younger guys are more prolific than the earlier generation. The members of the academy are entitled to enter up to 10 pieces each (could be a couple out here??) and if this allotment is taken up it doesn't leave a lot of room for outsiders. If you add the number of distinguished invitees (Shinnors, Teskey, McSweeney etc.), the chances get even slimmer. So isn't it time there was another Living Art Exhibition or equivalent open submission show to cater for the large number of applicants with nowhere to go? Come on Robert Ballagh get organising. And isn't it just a tad dishonest of the RHA to take €15 a painting from those optimists who continue to submit work. A couple of thousand do so very year - someone suggested that 4,000 did this year but I find that hard to credit.

The RHA should really issue a health warning to artists saying that those who apply are unlikely to get in. But of course that would remove a nice little revenue stream from an admittedly cash-strapped organisation. But should they be subsidised by the equally cash-strapped artists of Ireland?

And the selection process seems so random these days. A prize winner from last year has failed to get in this year. Someone who got in for 10 years on the trot suddenly doesn't get in for 2 years in a row - and so on whimsically.