Albert Irvin RA. OBE.

Albert Irvin RA. OBE. Rosetta 111, Acrylic on canvas, 61x61cm. 

Tapestries by Grayson Perry and a 3D model of a Fiat 500 from Ron Arad have gone on display alongside hundreds of works by artists we have never heard of and, in some cases regretfully, never will, including a healthy contribution from men and women in their 90s.

The occasion is the Royal Academy of Arts summer exhibition – held every year, without exception, since 1769 and a seasonal institution as ingrained in British culture as Wimbledon, the Proms and disappointing weather.

More than 1,200 works are on display, almost all available to buy to help students in the RA schools. The 245th show, opening to the public next Monday, has been co-ordinated this year by Royal Academicians the architect Eva Jiricna and the printmaker Norman Ackroyd.

Ackroyd said it had been a thrill and a privilege. "You wouldn't want to do it every year because it's all-consuming, not just time but mentally.

"But this is a great tradition, it is an exhibition selected by artists, hung by artists in the artists' own galleries – we just choose the best art and try to make sense of it on the walls. It is a truly democratic exhibition."

Ackroyd admitted the danger of upsetting friends with his choices. "The thing is, if you hang a picture on the line and in a great position, the artist always thinks that that's their due so you don't get compliments for hanging it well. If you hang it high they tend to thump you."

It was particularly pleasing to have work by older artists hanging alongside work by many young and emerging artists.

"There is hope for us all," said Ackroyd in front of a vividly lime, yellow, pink and lilac work by 90-year-old Albert Irvin.

"He is a gloriously joyful character." Other nonagenarians in the show include Diana Armfield, Bernard Dunston and Alan Davie, who taught Ackroyd at Leeds College of Art in 1958. "It is a lovely thing to be able to hang his pictures 60 years later."

The final room of the show is given over to a series of six tapestries by Perry called The Vanity of Small Differences, which represent a Hogarthian look at the British class system.

One room at this year's show is entirely for portraiture, including new work by Frank Auerbach (with a portrait of the critic Bill Feaver), Michael Craig-Martin and the American artist Alex Katz, showing for the first time.

As well as the show, there are the prizes with the Charles Wollaston award for the most distinguished work in the exhibition going to El Anatsui for his work TSIATSIA – searching for connection, a vast wall-hanging installed in the RA's courtyard.

• The RA summer exhibition runs 10 June-18 August.