When the Royal Academy of Art was established in 1968, the 40 founding artists made a commitment that each year an exhibition would be held, ‘open to all artists of merit’. It has become the holy grail for creatives - showcasing major artists like Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin alongside amateur work and potential stars of the future.

It hasn’t missed a year since, and its summer exhibition has become the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show. This year’s exhibition will be curated by British sculptor Ann Christopher. ‘I plan to explore the idea of making space, whether giving space or taking space,’ she explains. ‘This can be interpreted in various ways: to make space can mean openness – making space for something or someone, also making space between things.’

Ironically this is actually where artworks fight for space. Submissions opened in January and the cap of 16,500 entries was quickly reached. The academy whittle down these entries to around 1,200 works, in a range of media that will go on display alongside RA members and invited artists which this year include Ackroyd and Harvey, Vivien Blackett and Diana Copperwhite.

But how do they whittle down over 16,000 entries? ‘It happens quite naturally,’ explains Ann. ‘There is no magic formula or criteria, just to recognise that special something. I personally work instinctively. I believe in gut feeling and am happy to go with that. You can recognise quality even if it is in a work that you personally do not like.’

All works are viewed digitally on a large screen by a selection committee of six or seven Royal Academy members – sculptors, printmakers, painters and architects. If any member responds with interest work is shortlisted and brought in later to be judged again. ‘It takes about five or six days and is very intense and surprisingly hard work. We do not all have to agree as each one of us will be hanging individual rooms which will inevitably reflect some element of personal choice.’

Being on the committee not only allows you to take part in the selection process, it comes with the privilege of drinking ‘beef tea’; its ingredients remain a mystery. ‘It is very much a love hate tradition which I love,’ says Ann.

But you don’t have to be one of the Saatchi’s to own art from the exhibition, many works are available for less than £150 and several of the artists have gone on to become elected to the academy; Ann exhibited work for many years before being elected.

‘It is an opportunity for artists at all stages in their artistic life to work towards the chance of their work being seen by many people – and for those visitors there is the chance to buy an original piece of work from a wide variety of artists and a wide price range.

‘There is always the opportunity to buy an early work at an affordable price - buying for investment is a gamble - buy what you love and enjoy it.’

The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in London runs until August 18. For more information visit royalacademy.org.uk/summer-exhibition