Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2014
The RA Summer Exhibition has been a fixture in the British art calendar since 1769. Back in the day it was a rather exclusive club, but this year the 1,200 artworks selected from 12,000 open submission entries attempt to show the best of what is happening in art today.
It’s not really a fair reflection of contemporary art as the Academy claims, as the show favours wall-based and framed paintings and prints. There is some sculpture, but no performance and little video work, making it a slice of what goes on in other galleries. However, most of the work is for sale, everything is chosen, and as a group exhibition it must rank as the highest quality art fair anywhere.
The Royal Academy members are distinguished artists who are truly part of the club. Some of these, Cornelia Parker and Hughie O’Donoghue, have taken on the role of curators and organised some room hanging themselves, including their own work. Contributions by other academicians include Yinka Shonibare, Thomas Heatherwick and Rebecca Warren. Part of the joy of the mix is the thrill of discovery, and that famous and unknown artists’ works are hung together. It must be a exhilarating for some artists to find their print hanging next to one by Tracey Emin.
Sometimes at a group show there are one or two dud pieces that do not speak to the individual, but each of the works here has been selected purely on artistic merit, and it’s hard to find a questionable choice. Thousands of artists send in their prime output to have a chance of acceptance, which makes the quality superior and the lack of a unifying theme a wonderful experience for the viewer to find their favourites. The Summer Exhibition famously has rooms hung in the old salon style, where works are almost crammed together, hung floor to ceiling with barely a gap. There are too many highlights to mention out of hundreds of works, but somewhere in there you will find something that truly moves you. If you only go to one art exhibition in London, you can see why lots of people choose this one.
The Summer Exhibition 2014 is at the Royal Academy of Arts from 9th June until 17th August 2014. For further information or to book visit the gallery’s website here.