For the first time, the Summer Exhibition spans The New RA and spills onto the streets of London’s West End – look out for the installation of over 200 flags designed by Royal Academicians Rose Wylie, Grayson Perry, Cornelia Parker and Joe Tilson before entering the Royal Academy on Piccadilly.
Rose Wylie's flags hanging over Bond Street
Rid of its intellectual priciness and stultified curatorial hang, the 250th Summer Exhibition – under the helm of guest curator and committee member Grayson Perry – is bigger and better than ever. This 'unique festival of art making' offers a 'sensory, aesthetic and overwhelming experience' explains Grayson Perry during the press preview. And he's right it does. This year's edition is a fun, liberating and visual feast of art by 'the great, the good, and the unknown'. With his flamboyant touch, humorous juxtapositions, and pops of vibrant, bold colour, Grayson Perry has breathed new life into a somewhat atrophying institution.
Exhibition highlights this year include Anish Kapoor’s monumental sculpture Symphony for a Beloved Daughter, 2018, in the Royal Academy's Annenberg courtyard and two new photo-montages by Royal Academician David Hockney. Hockney's enormous photographic drawings on display in the Lecture Room, both over 7 metres in length, are an extension of the Californian-based artist's experimentation with reverse perspective, photo montage and photo editing.
Elsewhere, there's work by Mona Hatoum and Tal R, alongside Royal Academicians Antony Gormley, Wolfgang Tillmans and Rose Wylie. In the principal room of the exhibition (Room III), painted sherbet lemon for the occasion, hangs a very rare Sean Scully figurative work, Ghost Requiem, which is part of a new series created in reaction to the current political climate, and an unusual 'wall-based' Banksy priced at £350 million. The price of the anti-Brexit statement symbolically reflects the amount that the Leave campaign stated would go to the NHS each week if Britain left the EU.
But among the showstoppers remains a lot of mediocrity: herein lies the fun. With no intention of segregating good from bad, Perry mixes it all up in a 'joyful celebration of things you just like looking at'. No pomp, no circumstance, just art in all its multitude of forms. Look out for the totally unfathomable juxtaposition of the horizontal Pink Panther sculpture and a portrait of Nigel Farage in Room III, and Marlboro Man, a sculpture made from wool, waste paper and plaster by Calum Stevens in Room VIII. Chosen by Perry for looking like it 'gives not two f*cks', it may be one of the most artistically challenged works on show. And for that reason, also one of the most fabulously brilliant.
As part of the 250th celebrations, the committee have also encouraged ‘outsider artists’ – artists with no formal training, and who work outside of the conventional gallery system – to submit new work to showcase the broadest representation of art made now. Once you've ploughed through the suite of crowded galleries, summon up the courage to see the Royal Academy's accompanying exhibition exploring the history of the Summer Exhibition. The Great Spectacle traces the evolution of the annual show by featuring highlights from the past 250 years. Portraits by Reynolds and Gainsborough stand out for their sheer aesthetic beauty while two Turner landscapes serve as subtle reminders of what good art actually is.
The Summer Exhibition is always a completely different experience to any other show in London. It requires time and effort, and a lot of stamina, if you want to sidestep the hoarding crowds and bypass the mass of mediocre works on display. That said, it does also provide an unparalleled opportunity to discover emerging talent and pick up works by lesser-known and non-commercial artists.
As always, the majority of the artworks in the Summer Exhibition are for sale, in some cases for fairly affordable prices (the cheapest work is under £100). It's a great opportunity for both new and seasoned collectors to expand on a multi-disciplinary art collection.
|What||Review: 250th Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy, 2018|
|Where||Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Green Park (underground)|
12 Jun 18 – 19 Aug 18, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more information|