Summer Exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Arts
The Summer Exhibition returns to its intended season after being held in winter for two consecutive years due to the pandemic. One of the most anticipated events in the art world, the exhibition has been running for over 250 years and brings together the works of established artists alongside emerging names. Coordinating the show this year is sculptor Alison Wilding RA. The theme she has chosen is “climate”, a term that can refer to the environmental, political or social state of affairs we live in, but that can be applied in any way the artists choose, and their interpretations are indeed varied.
Many of the exhibitors address global warming. From a polar bear raising his middle finger in Scott Brooker’s Thanks, Man! to an elevated hut for flood refugees by Marina Tabassum, climate change is presented not just as a pressing issue related to our future but as a disaster in progress. Grayson Perry dedicates a cast bronze bell to the victims and survivors of the recent pandemic. The simply named Covid Bell is adorned with coffins, doctors and patients, and it’s a functioning bell that visitors will be able to ring. There are then references to the lockdown, but also to NFTs, crypto, the Ukraine war, feminism and much more. Mostly, however, there are depictions of natural landscapes and playful slogans and images ironically attacking consumerism and unsustainable practices.
With almost 1500 works on display, the exhibition inevitably feels a little cluttered and overwhelming. Covering the walls from top to bottom, paintings of different styles compete for the viewer’s attention and sculptures of varying sizes are scattered around the rooms. Quirkiness abounds – but what the exhibition could do more of is work that is truly striking, not just superficially so. While each piece has a message, many seem to lean into clichés and banal concepts. It’s certainly fun, however, to look through the myriad creations by Royal Academicians and new artists and marvel at the many directions that the word “climate” can lead one. Since most of the exhibits can be purchased, collectors will find such a rich ensemble of artworks particularly enticing. For everyone else, the RA’s Summer Exhibition is, as always, a wonderful opportunity to catch a snapshot of the current art scene.
Summer Exhibition 2022 is at the Royal Academy of Arts from 21st June until 21st August 2022. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.