The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2011

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show. Held every year without interruption since 1769, the exhibition is now in its 243rd year. This year more than 12,000 entries were received from 27 countries (with additional pieces by the RA Academicians) and after spending one month arranging the selected works, the Royal Academy showcases works by unknown, emerging and established artists in all media including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and film.

The opening of the 2011 Summer Exhibition was marked not only by American Jeff Koons’s magical Coloring Book placed in the courtyard but also by the garlanded statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds nearby. London is well represented among the 1,100-plus pieces accepted this year and, with the show’s List of Works, visitors can view all successful entries and have the unrivalled opportunity to purchase original artworks; all sales go towards funding the RA Schools, the only free art school in London.

As well as larger works, such as former Turner Prize winner Keith Tyson’s red, 4metre, ‘apocalyptic’ Deep Impact (mixed media on aluminium) and Le Brun’s own paintings Rise and Trust, one can also see more modest artworks hidden somewhere between the vast number of exhibits or placed close to the ceiling; many visitors were certainly in need of a step ladder.

Architects and photographers have been given dedicated galleries (the highlight of the entire exhibition) and, for 2011, a selection of Academicians, the choice of Michael Craig-Martin, including Antony Gormley, Michael Landy, Gary Hume, Cornelia Parker, Alison Wilding, Fiona Rae and Tracey Emin have a ‘room of their own’. Some works are on sale for rather extortionate prices; we indicatively mention the sculpture of chairs (Work no.998) by Turner Prize winner, Martin Creed on sale for £60,000, the acrylic on aluminium (Space) by Michael Craig-Martin CBE RA for £108,000, the oil of John Bellany RA (Homage to Michael Spens) on sale for £150,000 and the mixed media work (Fuga in Egitto) by Mimmo Paladino Hon RA for a steep £158,400!

Studying the history of The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition it is clear that the show always supported the new and emerging artists and its goal was an aesthetic elevation achieved by the celebration of fine art and giving the chance to the crows to appreciate fine art. However, it seems that nowadays this annual exhibition has become a ‘private show’ dedicated to the Royal Academicians and their favourite artists surrounded by a few unknown names just for the sake of it.
|Kostas Prapoglou