Bill Scott: The RSA has opened its doors to more artists than ever

I READ with interest Duncan Macmillan’s review of the Royal Scottish Academy Open two weeks ago, but I feel I should correct the impression that may have been given regarding the academy’s exhibition programme.

The decision to change the exhibition’s format was made by the RSA Council and Assembly and not, as suggested, as a result of any constraints imposed by the National Galleries of Scotland. Previously, we were able to hang only 10 per cent of the submission of works by non-members. The exhibition now has an invited section to include ambitious work by non-members, which gives each year a unique character. This year we exhibited 30 per cent of a submission of more than 1,000 works by non-members.

Since the academy’s return to the RSA building on The Mound after the refurbishment of the galleries, our exhibition programme has enabled considerably more artists to exhibit than ever before. With RSA New Contemporaries, we have developed a major annual exhibition of new graduate works in collaboration with the art and architecture schools across Scotland. In addition, two galleries are programmed throughout the year and a further three are shared with the National Galleries. Also, the academy’s revised constitution has enabled artists whose practice lies outside previous restrictions to exhibit works in lens-based media, installation and performance.

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Recently, the RSA has extended its remit to support artists across Scotland. We have successfully launched a major initiative for residential support for artists, with 24 partner venues in both urban and rural areas. We are looking at expanding this provision into European exchanges with centres in Italy, Poland and Germany, and we are in discussions to develop exhibition and residency facilities in China.

The RSA has striven to sustain new research and practice through residency-funding, exhibitions and sales initiatives, in order that support to artists does not diminish in these difficult economic times.

•  Bill Scott is president of the Royal Scottish Academy.