Varnishing Day

Varnishing Day: A Moment in Time

With the onset of the global pandemic, and for the first time in the history of the RA, the Summer Exhibition 2020 was postponed.

In response, our community of Royal Academicians pulled together to create a grass-roots project. The concept: to ‘take the temperature’ of British art at this crucial juncture, documenting what our RAs were doing, thinking and making on 1 June. The day when, for the past 252 years, Royal Academicians celebrate the start of the Summer Exhibition and put the finishing touches to their works, Varnishing Day.  

Conceived by Hughie O’Donoghue RA & David Mach RA with the assistance of Ian Ritchie RA. Including British art and architecture heavyweights Tracey Emin RA, Grayson Perry RA, Yinka Shonibare RA and Farshid Moussavi RA.


Made exclusively for Friends and Supporters of the Royal Academy. See below for details.

Containing 100 digital reproduction prints | Printed on Mohawk Superfine Ultrawhite Eggshell 216gsm | Published by Hurtwood and the RA | Printed in the UK by Pureprint


100 artists, 100 contributions, 1 collaborative portfolio. Images in video below.

We are hugely grateful for the support of our Friends, now more than ever, as the RA still faces financial challenges.


Every purchase supports the RA.       


The portfolio is available exclusively to Friends of the RA.


Become a Friend and purchase the Varnishing Day portfolio here.


If you are already a Friend and would like to purchase, please email us with your Membership number.


All sales of the portfolio support the RA and help us ensure that we are here for you - and everyone - long into the future. 

Find out more

About the project

Hughie O'Donoghue RA discusses the conception of the portfolio which was intended to connect two of the most important pillars of the RA - the Royal Academicians and our Friends. 

Read the article here

About the Summer Exhibition

Discover the history of the RA's Summer Exhibition.

It has been held every year since 1769 - making it the oldest and largest open submission exhibition in the world.

Read more here

About the Royal Academicians

Collectively, our Academicians make up some of the greatest names in contemporary art and architecture. 

Hughie O'Donoghue RA

David Mach RA

Artists and architects

Alan Stanton RA | Alison Wilding RA | Allen Jones RA | Sir Anish Kapoor RA | Ann Christopher RA | Anne Desmet RA | Anthony Eyton RA | Anthony Green RA | Anthony Whishaw RA | Antony Gormley RA | Barbara Rae RA | Basil Beattie RA | Bill Jacklin RA | Bill Woodrow RA | Bob & Roberta Smith RA | Brain Catling RA | Bryan Kneale RA | Cathie Pilkington RA | Chantal Joffe RA | Chris Wilkinson RA | Chris Orr RA | Conrad Shawcross RA | Cornelia Parker RA | Sir David Adjaye OBE RA | David Mach RA | David Nash RA | David Remfry RA | Dhruva Mistry RA | Diana Armfield RA | Ed Ruscha Hon RA | Eileen Cooper RA | Emma Stibbon RA | Eric Parry RA | Eva Jiricna RA | Eva Rothschild RA | Farshid Moussavi RA | Fiona Banner RA Elect | Fiona Rae RA | Fred Cuming RA | Gary Hume RA | Gordon Benson RA | Grayson Perry RA | Gus Cummins RA | Hughie O'Donaghue RA | Humphrey Ocean RA | Ian McKeever RA | Ian Ritchie CBE RA | James Butler RA | Jock McFadyen RA | Joe Tilson RA | John Carter RA | John Maine RA | Sir John Tusa | Kenneth Draper RA | Ken Howard RA | Kiki Smith Hon RA | Lisa Milroy RA | Louise Hutton RA | Mail Morris RA | Michael Craig-Martin RA | Michael Sandle RA | Mick Moon RA | Mick Rooney RA | Mike Nelson RA | Neil Jeffries RA | Niall McLaughlin RA Elect | Nigel Hall RA | Norman Acroyd RA | Norman Foster RA | Olwyn Bowey RA | Paul Huxley RA | Peter Cook RA | Peter Freeth RA | Peter Randall-Page RA | Phyllida Barlow RA | Phillip King PPRA | Piers Gough RA | Rana Begum RA Elect | Richard Cork | Richard Deacon RA | Sir Richard Long RA | Richard Wilson RA | Ron Arad RA | Rose Wylie RA | Spencer de Grey RA | Stephen Chambers RA | Stephen Cox RA | Stephen Farthing RA | Tacita Dean RA | Terry Setch RA | Tess Jaray RA | Thomas Heatherwick RA | Tim Shaw RA | Timothy Hyman RA | Tom Phillips RA | Tony Bevan RA | Tracey Emin RA | Trevor Dannatt RA | Vanessa Jackson RA | Wolfgang Tillmans RA | Yinka Shonibare CBE RA