July 11, 2017

The Summer Show | Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favourite shows – The Royal Academy of Arts  Summer exhibition – for an evening of gin and tonics and a celebration of the show’s 249th year.

As the world’s largest open-submission exhibition, the show showcases both established and emerging artists and provides a huge platform for contemporary art. This year, under the curational direction of Eileen Cooper OBE RA (a very worthy Academician at the Royal Academy Schools and the first ever female Keeper of the Royal Academy), the show reflects the voices of those coming through into the art world as well as many existing pioneers of modern-day creativity.


Cooper, known best for her colourful, stylised paintings of women, often described as “magic realism”, had her first work selected for the Summer Exhibition as a student in the 1970s.

She was widely exhibited during the 1980s and became a Royal Academician in 2000, before being elected as the first female Keeper of the RA in 2010. With her teaching career at the forefront, Copper has made a conscious effort to display artists who have never come close to the Royal Academy in the past and diversify into other types of media across the creative industries.


“Everything you’ll see at the Summer Exhibition represents the art being made today. Expect to find a panorama of art in all media, from painting, printmaking, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and performance art.”


With over 12,000 digital submissions originally entered, Cooper and the submissions team invited over 2,500 people to present their work. This has ultimately been cut down to around 1,200 pieces which have finally made it to the walls. A mismatch of paintings, textiles and drawings hang around the gallery spaces telling their stories and providing an exciting visual feast of inspiration. The curation leaves room for the lesser-known artists to stand out just as much as those well-known in the industry and previously included in past Summer Exhibitions.

Expect work from  internationally renowned artists Bob and Roberta Smith, Rosemarie Trockel, Julian Schnabel, Hassan Hajjaj, Secundino Hernández, Isaac Julien, Tomoaki Suzuki, Mark Wallinger and Sean Scully RA, as well as submissions by new Royal Academicians including Gilbert & George and David Adjaye.

Other obvious highlights include Yinka Shonibare RA’s six-metre high colourful wind sculpture in the RA Courtyard, ‘Wind Sculpture VI’. The geometric and colourful structure sets the tone for what’s in store within the gallery, enticing in London tourists and exciting those colour hunters amongst us.


The EJP Favourites:

1,200 works is clearly still a lot to take in and it’s easy to miss out unless you walk around a couple of times. If you’re itnerested, I’ve selected some of my favourite pieces below – if you want to know why, you’ll just have to ask.


‘This could be True’, Acrylic Painting by Keith Milow


‘Hold Fast’, Oil Painting by Vanessa Jackson RA


‘There Is Still Art, There Is Still Hope’, Screenprint by Bob & Roberta Smith RA


‘Heligan’, Acrylic Painting by Christine Woodward


‘Poupée Bleue’, Textile by Abdoulaye Konaté


‘Letter to Donald Trump’, Sign Writers’ Paint on Canvas by Bob and Roberta Smith RA

Information: The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is the largest open contemporary art exhibition in the world, drawing together a wide range of new work by established and emerging artists. Held annually since the Academy’s foundation in 1768, the exhibition attracts more than 200,000 visitors during its three-month run. Some 1,200 works are curated by a committee of Royal Academicians, who are all practising artists or architects.

Book tickets for the Summer Exhibition here: https://tickets.royalacademy.org.uk/performancelist.asp?ShoID=3339

EJP TOP TIP: The Summer Exhibition edits programme also invites guests to select the five works in this year’s exhibition that intrigue them the most. Check out the series of special tours with learning partners, exploring what they chose and why here: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/summer-exhibition-edits



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Emma Jane Palin is a freelance art consultant, interior stylist and multi-award-winning blogger residing in Margate, UK. She has worked with various home and lifestyle brands not limited to West Elm, Apple, John Lewis, Habitat, MADE, Caran D'Ache + No.3 Gin. Emma is also a regular contributor to Hunker where she writes about design trends and interior advice.

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