Summer Exhibition @ Royal Academy


Somehow despite living in London my whole life and despite being an artophile ever since I was old enough to understand what a picture is, I have managed to always miss the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Last week a surprise early birthday gift of a membership to the RA landed on my doorstep and I just had to take advantage and go along to the annual show.

Now in its 245th year, the Summer Exhibition this year was coordinated by Norman Ackroyd and Eva Jiricna. Unlike the modern exhibitions that we are used to today, the walls are jam packed with paintings, prints and drawings. Instead of one line of images, our eyes are treated to a feast which spans from floor to ceilings of works of art which come from submissions from the public as well as artists including Tracey Emin, Gary Hume and Julian Opie.

Before even entering the Academy, we are shown El Anatsui’s metal wrap which covers the facade of the building. This hanging sculpture is made from thousands of aluminium bottletops and is just one of 1,270 works on display.

My favourite room was the print room which was hung by Anne Desmet. From the countless red sales dot on the works, I can imagine that they are the favourites of many others too. However there are also rooms dedicated to portraiture, sculpture and architecture – nothing is left unexplored. Photography is also displayed, proving modern art forms are also accepted in todays art market.

The final room is dedicated to Grayson Perry’s now infamous The Vanity of Small Differences tapestry series. The tapestries draw influences from Hogarth’s rake and pilgrim’s progress series’ as well as other old masters whilst remaining fresh for today’s viewers. I saw these a year ago at Victoria Miro gallery, but they certainly haven’t lost their appeal. The tapestries are bold and bright and depict the different aspects of contemporary life in a way that everyone can relate to.

There is an added feel good factor to be had when seeing fabulous works of art from the public mixed in with blockbuster artists. The exhibition is certainly a feast for the eyes and now that I have my RA friends membership, I will be sure to make a return!

The Summer Exhibition is on display until 18 August

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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