Varnishing Day: a Moment in Time

Produced for the Royal Academy of Arts, London


Varnishing Day: a Moment in Time, is a single collective artwork devised by David Mach RA & Hughie O’Donoghue RA and features the work of 100 Royal Academicians – from Antony Gormley RA to Yinka Shonibare RA

This year, for the first time in 252 years, the Royal Academy Summer Show was postponed and, along with it, Varnishing Day. Traditionally, Varnishing Day is the day when Academicians with work in the Summer Show meet and celebrate, adding finishing touches to their work before the opening the next day. For Varnishing Day: a Moment in Time, 100 Academicians made a picture on Varnishing Day (1 June); an expression of their thoughts and feelings at this unprecedented time. It’s an artistic response to the Coronavirus Pandemic but most importantly, it’s an acknowledgement of the contribution made by the Friends of the Royal Academy of Arts. Moreover, it also serves well as a way of raising much needed funds for the Royal Academy.

Watch the Royal Academicians video of how the work was conceived.


From the moment we got the call from David & Hughie, we knew that this was going to be one of our most exciting challenges yet. We often work directly with an artist on a book; but 100 artists? at the same time? Not only did we need to devise an exquisite work with the highest standards of reproduction but we needed to create a plan for manufacture that could make any quantity from 100 to 10,000. And that’s before we factor in having to devise the process entirely during lockdown with only Zoom and the telephone.

This is when you really need a brilliant team, and the Hurtwood design and production team certainly came good. Working with our trusted partners of over 40 years we managed to make and ship the finest paper for the artists’ work and the highest quality materials for the elegant box. Finally we used our best box maker and print partner in the UK to manufacture the work. For our clients to rely on us we have to have partners on whom we can rely; and never more so as now.


  • Quantity: Made to order for Friends of the Royal Academy. Order your copy here.
  • Size: 330 x 245mm
  • Artwork photography by Matthew Hollow
  • Pre-press reproduction and artwork in house at Hurtwood and by Sam Adams at Pureprint
  • Print management by the Hurtwood production team.
  • Design: Billie Temple.
  • Printing: Printed in UK by Pureprint using up to 9 colours.
  • Printed on: Mohawk Paper
  • Box: Covered in Dapple Emboss Colorplan by GF Smith with silkscreen printed type and a spot gloss UV varnish. Constructed by Simon Orenstein.
  • Contents: 100 works of art, an introduction and a letter from HRH the Duchess of Cornwall.
  • Internal Literature: Top and tailing the 100 works of art, we created a 4pp introduction from duplexed Colorplan by GF Smith. At the base, there is another duplexed sheet and the entire pack is held together by a belly band foil stamped with the RA monogram before being placed in the box. 
  • Packing: Collated as a set of 100 works of art.


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