Every June since I arrived in London, I have been to the Summer Exhibition. One year I even bought a tiny print. Every year it is different but it is always exciting to see what has been submitted and what the artist in charge of co-ordinating the event has made of the space. This year Richard Wilson has gone for white, white walls and duos. As a mother of twins I like the duo theme. Artists who work together feature in every gallery or, more obviously, there are pairs of people glancing down at you. Gilbert and George are the most famous duo working in the UK today, they have produced a massive work especially for the Summer Exhibition entitled Beard Aware.
Some numbers ….. 12,000 works of art were submitted for the Hanging Committee to consider. For at this exhibition, amateurs rub shoulders with the world’s best. Two thirds of the final 1,240 pieces were ones that were sent in on spec. The rest are a mix of Royal Academicians, Honorary Members and invited artists. One those invited artists is Kutluğ Ataman who was commissioned to produce a portrait of the Turkish industrialist Sakip Sabanci to mark a decade since his death. Faced with the difficulty of depicting a long-dead man, he opted to display 30,000 of his employees and associates on 10,000 screens. The images change constantly and the effect is of an undulating flying carpet.
One of my favourite rooms every year is the one dedicated to architecture. Usually you get tiny models of the most prestigious buildings being built around the world that year. This time the theme is unbuilt. At the time of submission all the models had yet to be constructed. In this way it is hoped to encourage younger architects to submit their work. I like best the one like an exploded map of London which shows all the projects that Mobile Studio Architects have had approved for planning permission in the last five years.
Most of the works on display are for sale. Prices range from hundreds to ten of thousands of pounds, a percentage of the sale price goes toward funding the Royal Academy school that has been training the newest generation of artists for over two hundred years. Usually my favourite game of which piece would I most like to take home is a purely theoretical one but at this exhibition it really might end up on my wall. This year Fragile Edges by Julie Massie, priced at £800 caught my eye. Sadly, just as I was about to ring Mr CW and drop large hints about my belated Birthday present a red dot appeared indicating that somebody else liked it too.
Tea rooms can be found on the ground floor of the Royal Academy but they can get very crowded. If the queues are too daunting, then the most beautifully presented cup of coffee in London can be had in Maison Assouline at 196A Piccadilly.
SUMMER EXHIBITION 2016 at the Royal Academy of Arts
13 June 2016 – 21 August 2016
Open: 10am – 6pm daily (Fridays until 10pm)
Admission: Adult £12, concessions available, under 16’s go free