Candidates exhibition 2017 and the History of the Society
In light of our upcoming Candidates exhibition, 10 April – 22nd April 2017, now is the perfect time to have a look back to the history of the Royal Birmingham Society and the election process required to join the prestigious list of Society artists.
The Candidates Exhibition aims to showcase the best works by artists nominated for the upcoming election to Associate or Member of the Society. These works, exhibited across galleries 1 and 2, will exemplify the artistic direction and future of the RBSA. The purpose for this exhibition, as a method of selecting the new Associates and Members of the society, makes this a stand out exhibition in the RBSA programme and a must see for those interested in the contemporary output of artists today.
The Election Process
Historically the Society has elected its Associates and Members through nominations made by current Members once a year. The first step to becoming a Member of the Society is to gain the title of RBSA Associate. At present, there are two ways of becoming an Associate. The first is through a process called Associate Nomination an artist must be nominated by two full Members and have written evidence of their support. The second is through a process called ‘Self-Nomination’, for people who do not know a current Member but have already exhibited at the Gallery in the last five years, possible through the Open or Prize exhibitions. This application is then reviewed by the President and a select group of Members. The second step to becoming a Member is Member Nomination, which today requires a present Associate of the society to submit a nomination form, formally putting their name forward for consideration
The Candidates exhibition will then take place, whereupon all candidates are required to submit six works of art which will be evaluated and voted on by a panel of Members. To be elected candidates must achieve 50% and one vote from the panel.
The election process for current artists interested in joining the Society and to be considered for the Associate or Member nominations next year, is explained in further detail on our website: http://www.rbsa.org.uk/members-associates/election-process/
The History of the Society
The historic names of past and current Associates and Members of the society can be seen to reflect not only the prestigious status of the RBSA, but also the contemporary art movements occurring in Birmingham. Established in 1821 as the Birmingham Society of Arts, the early stages of the society saw a blossoming of interest from contemporary artists and in 1829 Thomas Rickmann designed and built the RBSA Gallery on New street, captured at the time by many of the Society Members. This growing group of artists were presented with a royal charter in 1868, thus adopting the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.
During the 1840s and late nineteenth century the RBSA had a significant role in the popular Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movement. Among the many notable past presidents the RBSA can include Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and John Everett Millais. As impressive as these connections are, perhaps more important are the significant shifts taken by the RBSA to modernise and evolve the artistic allowances of accepted works over the more recent years. In 1978 Joan Elizabeth Woollard, a Birmingham-born sculptor, was elected as the first female president of the RBSA, a role she maintained until 1980. The society has gone on to elect members and support artists from diverse backgrounds and the use of a range of artistic mediums. The most recent selection process for the RBSA Open exhibition saw entries by Members and non-Members including paintings and sculptures of all types of mixed media and processes of production. Through these examples of progressive and contemporary thinking the RBSA’s process of nomination and election is welcoming of the next generation of artists and the Candidates exhibition will aim to showcase the high standard of work and talent expected of future RBSA Associates and Members.
By Isabella Frostick, RBSA Archive Team Volunteer