Ok, I admit it. I’ve deliberately avoided the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition every year since I first saw it in 2007, mainly because it’s such a hodgepodge of all sorts that it somehow does much injustice to those actually exhibiting, being a big clamouring for wall space. The same happened this year, with large major works by Anselm Kiefer, Sean Scully and Michael Craig-Martins scooping up your field of vision, and newbie entrants showing things as diverse as a bronze sculpture of Iggy Pop to the tried and tested flower genre painting, to gain interest.
Indeed, with over 1,000 works on show, selected from 12,000 entrants, it threatens to become a matter of who can shout the loudest, and it feels so exhaustive that you can’t possibly digest everything in a leisurely or comprehensive manner. But enough of my whining. An interesting addition this year is uber-sculptor Richard Wilson RA who’s been put in charge of making the whole thing more relevant and exciting, less stuffy. He’s decided to invite famous duo artists to input their own artworks. But why duo?! I still don’t get the relevance of this qualifying factor in the choice, especially when he doesn’t even stick to it: alongside the duos, Gilbert and George, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, EVA & ADELE, are other big names Anselm Kiefer, El Anatsui, Georg Baselitz and Marina Abramović. It’s an interesting attempt to bring out the big guns and make it all shiny, declaring the RA’s continuing relevance on a global artistic stage. But one can’t help but feel they detract from the humble ordinary folk who’ve managed to get their work accepted, and that the whole thing, even though it’s supposed to be anti-stuffy, remains firmly ‘establishment’, cos once you’re part of the ‘establishment’, you’re guaranteed a place. Or maybe the lesser-known artists can now put on their CVs “Upstaged by Marina Abramović at the Summer Exhibition cos the photographers are more likely to snap her work over mine”.
In other news, my blood boils once more at Tracey Emin, who has submitted a drawing which looks like it has been done with a pen stuck in her fanny (aren’t most of her drawings about her fanny?), as an official artwork for Britain’s participation at this year’s Olympics in Rio. With the caption, ‘True Love Always Wins’, it has a sentimentality and blind optimism worthy of Yoko Ono. It has the feel of something knocked out in 5 minutes in between filing planning permissions for her building’s empire and quality time with her rock.
See The RA Summer Exhibition with Interactive 3D Technology Here: Use Mouse To Drag for 360 Panorama