Over 1,500 pieces have been chosen for this year’s exhibition, curated by Jock McFadyen.
The Summer Exhibition is a very special thing. It’s been running annually at the Royal Academy of Arts since 1769 and invites anyone to submit their art to be displayed in one of London’s most iconic galleries. Professional to unknown artists are invited to send in their prints, paintings, photography, sculpture, architectural works and even film. It’s an eclectic collection of art which always guarantees to amuse, horrify, dazzle and, at times, confuse the spectator. What makes this display different from usual exhibitions at the RA is all the art is for sale, so you can take home your favourite pieces (if you’re quick enough and can afford to!)
This year is the 251st Summer Exhibition and has been curated by British painter Jock McFadyen. Established artists such as Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Wim Wenders, Charles Avery and Banksy are represented alongside undiscovered talent. Before even entering Burlington House, you pass by the courtyard’s huge, ghoulish sculptures from Thomas Houseago, which loom over you as you walk by. Although the art exhibited contains a wide variety of themes and subjects, there has been some attempt to group some pieces together in certain rooms. The themes of identity and environment – undoubtedly the two hot topics in the UK today – are prevalent in many pieces. At the beginning of the exhibition, you start at the Central Hall, which houses a sort of menagerie of animals. The collection of sculptures in the middle of the room was an eclectic mix, with my eye being drawn to the melting wax ‘Polar Bear’ by Shira Zelwer.
With Brexit continuing to dominate our headlines and politics, mysterious street artist Banksy has created a piece called ‘Keep Ou’. Alluding to the Brexiteers’ vision of EU migrants besieging Britain, a rat is seen using the fallen ‘t’ from an ‘out’ to break a lock on a shutter at a UK Customs door. Another debate-provoking piece was Jeremy Deller’s flag ‘We Are All Immigrant Scum’, which I liked for its shock value.
One of my favourite rooms at the exhibition is the Architecture display, which I usually find calmer than the other rooms. I was drawn to Thomas Heatherwick’s striking scale model of the UK Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo 2010 – the life-sized building no longer existing. I also liked the vibrant model of this year’s Dulwich Pavilion by Pricegore (which I have since seen in the flesh and have also blogged about).
Other notable favourites of mine this year includes Karen Knoor’s giraffes in ‘Brief Encounter: Palazzina Cinese’, which I loved for the rich, vivid colour. Impossible to ignore and an Insta-favourite at this year’s exhibition is David Mach’s sculpture ‘Easy Tiger’ in the Central Hall, which upon closer inspection is made of Tunnock’s Teacake wrappers. As you would imagine, with 1,500 pieces, the exhibition takes a while to get around. With art covering all the walls from waist-high to near the ceiling, it can be tricky to hone in on everything, but that is the chaotic beauty of the Summer Exhibition. With the exhibition only running for two months, try and check it out while you still can.
- The Summer Exhibition 2019 runs from 10 June – 12 August 2019. At the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BD. Nearest station: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus. Open daily 10am-6pm. Tickets: £18. For more information, visit the Royal Academy of Arts website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in August, click here.