As we come to the end of what has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging years in living memory, we celebrate the coming together of the Royal Scottish Academy Membership with this festive show.
And it is time for celebration. The year behind us has brought many hurdles – both professional and personal – and the challenges we have faced have changed the way we experience and interpret the world around us. Simple tasks have become fraught with risks and the exhilaration of foreign travel, nights out and even meeting friends and family has been curbed or stopped.
In March 2020, as we were preparing to install our 194th Annual Exhibition, the national lockdown forced the gallery doors to close. Works by Academicians, invited artists and nationwide artists whom had submitted works to the Open Exhibition, remained on the gallery floor unhung and unable to be viewed. The Annual Exhibition is the highlight of the Academy’s year. It brings friends and colleagues together in camaraderie and the jovial celebrations include lunches and opening parties.
The RSA Annual Exhibition is the beginning of the ‘Season’ and the resulting sales of this exhibition bring funds to the artists and also vital income to the Academy to enable us to continue our work with artists across Scotland.
The Academy is a charity which is not publicly funded and so we rely on these elements of commercial income to assist supporting artists and the creation of new works. The halt of the Annual Exhibition was an anomaly – the show has been continuous since 1826 – but, although we were shaken, we were not perturbed and immediately developed a new online presence for the exhibition, providing the artists with a platform to show and sell the works in our care during lockdown. This platform opened up the exhibition to new audiences as visitors from around the globe relied more and more on the digital world for engagement and experience during these Covid-wrought times.
The Academy structures also became digital. Staff working from home from around central Scotland and Academicians from across the UK and into Europe holding large-scale online meetings. This all added to the frisson of opportunity and our projects were focused more acutely upon supporting artists through this incredibly difficult time. Eventually, after many months, we were able to begin to slowly reopen the gallery and present physical work on the walls once again, inviting visitors back into the Academy to experience art in person.
And so, as we look to the festive period and toward the promise of a new year ahead, we have asked the Academicians to celebrate this time with gems from their studios. The Christmas Show brings together uplifting and joyous celebrations from the individuals whom make up this illustrious body. The exhibition gives us a glimpse into the world of the artists’ studios, to see for the first time the works which have been prepared for us. A clear statement of place and time… we are here and we are strong.
The Royal Scottish Academy wishes you a very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2021.
Colin R. Greenslade, Director