The world’s largest and longest open submission exhibition opens its doors at the Royal Academy this week, showcasing the work of amateurs and professionals under one grand roof. The unconventional affair is a chance for those less recognised to be exhibited alongside the greats of contemporary art. Think Tracey Emin’s inky nudes, and Barbara Walker’s masterpieces on the same walls as portraits of cats, dogs and fried eggs by completely unknown artists. But why do they do it one might ask? The enduring cultural event brings in mass audiences every year, dispelling the sometimes stuffy exclusivity of the art world and giving everyone the opportunity to become a part of the show.

This year’s 255th edition features 1,613 pieces, from a whopping 16,500 submissions, which fill the multi-room space and line the walls of the monumental gallery. Each year, the show’s curators provide artists with a broad theme to work around, former exhibits have looked to ‘Reclaiming Magic’ and the ‘Climate’ but this year’s submissions explore the theme of ‘Only Connect’. Inspired by the famous quote, ‘Only Connect’ from the novel Howards End, written by English author E.M. Forster in 1910.

Located in the iconic Wohl Central Hall and theatrically suspended from the high ceiling, Fashion designer, Richard Malone presents a mobile sculpture, and its true magnitude is felt upon entering the exhibit. Measuring approximately 7x5m high, the piece blurs the lines between fashion and sculpture, much like many of his designs. The designer has become known for his slow and sustainable approach to fashion, producing only bespoke garments and sourcing his fabrics locally, and his microscopic focus on cut and silhouette comes out of respect for the craft.

His contribution to the exhibition, named Poem in the Dark, about Sadness, continues his exploration of craft and the handmade on an artistic level. Richard’s ‘floating’ sculpture was made by draping large swathes of cobalt-blue fabric around high-tension wire to create unique shapes and forms that morph and change as the viewer circles the artwork.

Richard grew up in Wexford, Ireland, and spent his childhood between learning to stitch with his grandmother, or working on building sites with his father, both skills that are applied to exist within Richard’s multidisciplinary practice; that are clearly represented in this monumental work.

Richard’s mobile installation is the centrepiece of the exhibition, sitting amongst numerous works such as a witty painting by comedian Joe Lycett, Lindsey Mendick’s playful ceramics, Barbados-born painter Paul Dash's work that bridges figuration and abstraction, as well as contributions from two Royal Academy school, graduates Jenkin van Zyl and Harminder Judge – just to name a few. To experience the show in its fullest it's well worth a visit.

The exhibition is open to the public until Sunday 20th August. Discover more at

By Zari Ibbetson