Leading article: Amateur hour

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The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition is the art world turned briefly upside down. Since 1768 the work of distinguished Royal Academicians has been displayed alongside the output of members of the public, who submit their own dabblings. In the Palladian splendour of Burlington House the professional rubs shoulders with the amateur. And the visiting public have the challenge of distinguishing between the two.

But it seems that some in the art world don't like the world being turned upside down. According to one of the exhibition's co-ordinators, Christopher Le Brun, some distinguished academicians are "embarrassed" by having their work displayed alongside that of the public. They apparently feel that the amateurs' efforts are not up to much.

Such an attitude is plainly not in the spirit of the Summer Exhibition, which was founded on the view that the public, rather than critics, are the best judges of art. But these precious academicians are also missing two points. First, just as a bride generally chooses duller dresses for her bridesmaids, surely a background of incompetent art only makes their own genius stand out all the more. Second, have they considered that the embarrassment at the quality of the surrounding work might be shared by the amateurs?

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