RA Summer Exhibition 2017 Highlights
The sun has finally graced London with its presence, happily coinciding with another tradition of the season; the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. After visiting the 249th (!) instalment of London’s annual ritual, here’s a few of the RA Summer Exhibition 2017 highlights.
This year’s courtyard sculpture is the colour pop Wind Sculpture VI by Yinka Shonibare RA
The Summer Exhibition is the largest open submission exhibition in the world. With an almost 250-year history (next year marks the big anniversary) the galleries’ walls are annually stacked floor to ceiling with over 10,000 artworks from professional and amateur artists.
Expect delicate drawings beside hefty sculpture and, inoffensive landscapes next to shock-tactic photos. It goes without saying there’s also a huge helping of “but is that really art?”
Or to put it in the Royal Academy’s own words;
“Everything you’ll see at the Summer Exhibition represents the art being made today. Expect to find a panorama of art in all media”
Due to the sheer volume of works, the only information available is artist, title, material and (great for nosey folks like me) the price.
The exhibition therefore is a great leveller of art criticism, meaning all opinions are valid and no interpretation can be ruled out by a white information label.
However, that does mean that some objects keep you guessing…
Initially I thought this Anish Kapoor sculpture looked harmless, like a fluffy raspberry ripple meringue. Staring at it for longer though made me think of a huge pulsating heart so, slightly unnerved, I ploughed on.
The Black Hole and Seven Universes by Stefan Nenov
I’m afraid I have no idea what to make of this next one though…
The Art Of Being Right by Lee Wagstaff
London’s Architecture Close-Up
An often overlooked section of the Summer Exhibition is architecture. The rooms of technical models and drawings don’t have quite the same immediate visual appeal as the others, but I ended up spotting some familiar buildings.
Recognise this London landmark?
Tottenham Court Road Underground Station – Glass Entrances by Stanton Williams
Some of the drawings take a little longer to visualise;
One Blackfriars, the facade explained by SimpsonHaugh
And other times you can get a look into the future;
The model of 1 Undershaft by Eric Parry architects at a ratio of 1:200. This skyscraper will be the tallest in The City, just under 2m shorter than the Shard and sit right next to the Cheesgrater.
Image from Eric Parry Architects
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Screen print by Bob and Roberta Smith
Given the current unstable political climate I thought there might be more overtly political art, but perhaps the RA steered clear of headline grabbing pieces this year. There was one work that I though deserved a mention here though, and that was Woman to Go by Mathilde ter Heijne.
Her postcards racks feature black and white photographs of women from all over the world, and on the back they detail their biography and achievements.
On the left is Rehuti Maihi (1895-1967), a journalist and later the founder and editor of a Maori-language newspaper Aotearoa in her native New Zealand. She was the first Maori woman to stand for parliament but wasn’t successful, however she continued her paper through WWII realising the soldier’s need for a paper in their own language.
And on the right, Emily Wilding Davidson (1872-1913) Suffragette and WSPU member who militantly campaigned for women’s suffrage. She is probably most famous for throwing herself under the King’s horse at Epsom Derby.
A view of room VI, at the forefront is another piece by Yinka Shonibare; Venus De’ Medici made of a handmade fibreglass model, bespoke globe and hand-painted Dutch wax pattern.
Things that caught my eye
The best thing about the RA Summer Exhibition is that you’re pretty much guaranteed to fin at least one thing you like.
Whether it’s simply an appreciate for how a particular room has been curated;
I love how Nigel Hall’s Natural Pearl is reflected in the shiny floor.
Or this tiny sculpture which I couldn’t help but contemplate for a while;
But my favourite piece was Cornelia Parker’s Alter Ego (Object with Unconscious), two silver-plated objects where one has been crushed with a 250 ton press.
Floating silently in room IV…
So if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, you’ll surely find something to pique your interest at the RA’s Summer Exhibition, currently running until 20 August.
The Summer Exhibition is open Saturday – Thursday 10am – 6pm and Friday 10am – 10pm. Tickets cost £15.50 (without donation £14). But there are concessions available. Book a timed slot and find out more here.
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