For the first time ever, cameras have been allowed behind-the-scenes at the 196-year-old Royal Hibernian Academy, including access to the judging process for the exhibition fondly known as 'The Annual'. Watch an exclusive preview below...
On Thursday 27th June, RTÉ One television will broadcast Exhibitionists: Road to the RHA, an hour-long documentary directed by Hilary Fennell, following seven artists who are hoping to have work selected from the competitive open call.
Watch: Exhibitionists - meet Mo West
The RHA Annual Exhibition is one of the most important dates on Ireland's cultural calendar, and an opportunity for all artists - professionals and amateurs alike - to have their work showcased in one of the nation's most important galleries.
Each artist featured in Exhibitionists has their own story to tell, from Limerick’s Brian O’Rourke, a former cannabis dealer who learned to paint in prison, to Connemara's Mo West, who at the age of 92 has just been accepted into Aosdána.
The programme follows the artists through the process of creating an artwork for 'The Annual', to finding out whether or not it has been accepted - along the way, we discover why and how they make art and how they deal with rejection.
Participants include 19 year old Hetty Lawlor from Mayo, who's never submitted before, and her father Jimmy, who's submitted many times before, so far without success. Elsewhere, in Laois we meet chronic depression sufferer Aishling Hennessey, for whom painting in a freezing cold barn at the end of her father's garden is more than just a hobby - it's survival.
Watch: Exhibitionists - meet Salvatore of Lucan
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In Lucan, Salvatore Fullam's obsession with identity prompted him to change his name to Salvatore of Lucan, while Dingle-based sculptor Mick Davis makes work from recycled bicycle tyres and chains, most famously for TV sensation Game of Thrones.
For the first time on television, Exhibitionists also captures the 'dark art' of the RHA selection process, chared this year by its first ever female President, renowned artist Abigail O'Brien, as well as observing the controlled mayhem of the install as the gallery team race against time to create this art marathon of a show in time for Opening Day.
"The exhibition gives artists the power to launch successful careers, as emerging artists get the opportunity to share wall space with some of Ireland's biggest stars,' says director Hilary Fennell, 'however, the standard is incredibly high and, out of over 2,500 works submitted to the open call only 300 or so will be selected. Some of our seven artists have never had work in such a prestigious show before, so it will be nerve-wracking to see which, if any, of them get in."
Exhibitionists, RTÉ One, Thursday 27th June 2019 at 10.15pm. This year's RHA Annual Exhibition runs until August 10th, 2019 - more details here.