It’s always a joy to go to the annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. This event has been embedded in the country’s cultural calendar for nearly 250 years and is as English as Victoria sponge cake.
It’s the ultimate ‘pick and mix’ of art. You can see work by many of the members of the Royal Academy – some of whom have curated this year’s show. But this show is also the opportunity for ANYONE to submit work and keep fingers crossed that it might be selected. Because of the open-hearted nature of this show the walls and plinths are covered with remarkable work and everything is for sale.
Other galleries put the focus on abstract work, prints, sculpture and figurative work. The glory of this show is that all the work is for sale. For those with deep pockets there’s a chance to shell out for names such as Fiona Rae (who made the gorgeous Red Sea, featured above – for £72,000) But at the other end of the scale there’s a chance to buy a picture made by a non-professional artist, or someone who has not yet gained a ‘name’ for themselves.
For a very modest £500 you could buy Whitchurch Lock by Christine Scoby-Smith, a really charming paper collage of a narrow boat tied up at a lock. (It’s actually been sold!)
The first gallery bursts into life with a selection of works chosen by Yinka Shonibare MBC who clearly loves colour, texture and narrative.
Of course I was drawn to the portraits on show and paintings which depict a multitude of people. Bill Jacklin RA made this wonderfully busy painting called Hub 1.
I was also very impressed by the video installation by Isaac Julien entitled Western Union: Small boats. It’s mesmerising and beautiful – a contemporary take on Visconti’s film, The Leopard, set in Sicily, juxtaposing the details of bobbing boats and clear sea with the impact of migrants who brave the sea and arrive upon the island.
The Summer Exhibition is the sort of show which is guaranteed to have something for everyone and reflects the hugely diverse range of art being made. Fascinating stuff.
The show runs from 13 June – 20 August 2017 at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD