Summer Exhibition @ Royal Academy


Summer: Royal Ascot, Wimbledon, Henley, the return of the Polo season and this year, the Football World Cup. We are spoilt for choice when it comes to sport. However, there are artistic traditions too. Earlier this month the annual summer exhibition opened at the Royal Academy, a must-see for the cultural elite.

For nearly 250 years the Royal Academy has invited anyone to submit work to put on display, which is then on sale. Unlike most contemporary exhibitions, the hang does not run in a straight line along the gallery walls, instead paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints cover their surfaces from floor to ceiling. Some may call this a feast for the eyes, however, others are completely overwhelmed.

This year I went along to the opening weekend. Where, on just the second day, a vast number of work had already been sold, proving that the art market is obviously still thriving. The gallery, as is every year, was packed. I have been to the exhibition on previous years, however, despite knowing what to expect, I found it a little too much to take in all at once.

While there is lots to see, this has meant that it is very difficult to remember much of what is on show. What is still in my mind however, is the opening work, a sculpture by Yinka Shonibare RA entitled Cake Man, which shoes a man in African clothing bending half over, struggling to carry a pile of cakes on his back. The image is colourful and comical, yet the message behind it is not, a remark towards bankers having their cake and eating it. Also on show by well-known artists both British and International, include canvases by George Baselitz and one of my favourites from the show by Anselm Kiefer.

Each year I have always found the print room the most impressive and this year was no exception. Last year I was mildly impressed with the photographic entries, however these seemed to be missing this year. Although where the show is lacking in photography, it certainly makes up for this in architectural images.

With so much on display, the Summer Exhibition undoubtedly has something for everyone. However this show is one that you really need to visit on more than one occasion!

The Summer Exhibition is on display at Royal Academy until 17 August

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and also writes for After Nyne, Ibraaz and Reorient.

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