Candidates Exhibition: contemporary art today

The Candidates Exhibition is a must-see for those interested in the contemporary output of artists today.

As a showcase of the best works by artists nominated for upcoming election to Associate or Member of the Society, the exhibition exemplifies the artistic direction and future of the RBSA.

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:

  1. Associate Nomination: an artist must be nominated by two full Members and have written evidence of their support.

  2. Self-Nomination: for people who do not know a current Member but have already exhibited at the Gallery in the last five years, possibly through the Open or Prize exhibitions.

Applications are reviewed by the President and Members.


For the Candidates Exhibition, all candidates are required to submit six works of art, 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 artists interested in joining the Society or being considered for Associate or Member nominations next year is explained in further detail on our website

In good company

The historic names of past and current Associates and Members reflect not only the prestigious status of the RBSA, but also contemporary art movements 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.

In 1829, Thomas Rickmann designed and built the RBSA Gallery on New Street. The growing group of artists was presented with a Royal Charter in 1868, and became the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

During the late nineteenth century the RBSA had a significant role in the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements. Notable Past Presidents include Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and John Everett Millais.

The RBSA today

As impressive as these connections are, perhaps more important are the significant moves taken by the RBSA to modernise over 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 in 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.

Through these examples of progressive and contemporary thinking, the RBSA is welcoming the next generation of artists.

By Isabella Frostick, RBSA Archive Team Volunteer

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