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Art Review: The Perfect Place To Grow @ Royal College of Art

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 49 months ago
Art Review: The Perfect Place To Grow @ Royal College of Art
Forehead, Jake and Dinos Chapman, 1997, mixed media, (Photograph by Todd-White Art Photography), © Jake and Dinos Chapman; Courtesy White Cube
Forehead, Jake and Dinos Chapman, 1997, mixed media, (Photograph by Todd-White Art Photography), © Jake and Dinos Chapman; Courtesy White Cube
The Perfect Place to Grow, Tracey Emin, 2001, Mixed media, © Tate, London 2012, Courtesy Tracey Emin
The Perfect Place to Grow, Tracey Emin, 2001, Mixed media, © Tate, London 2012, Courtesy Tracey Emin
Head of the Virgin, Henry Moore, 1922–3, Marble, © Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation
Head of the Virgin, Henry Moore, 1922–3, Marble, © Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation
Head of the Virgin, Henry Moore, 1922–3, Marble, © Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation
Head of the Virgin, Henry Moore, 1922–3, Marble, © Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation
Nude, Frank Auerbach, 1985, Charcoal on paper, © Royal College of Art Collection
Nude, Frank Auerbach, 1985, Charcoal on paper, © Royal College of Art Collection
Spike, David Mach, 2011, Courtesy of David Mach, photo, © Richard Riddick @ The DPC
Spike, David Mach, 2011, Courtesy of David Mach, photo, © Richard Riddick @ The DPC

The Royal College of Art (RCA) has guided creative minds for 175 years. In that time, it has added many famous names to its list of graduates including Henry Moore, Frank Auerbach, James Dyson, Ridley Scott, Thomas Heatherwick and many more. This is a chance for it to display works by some of its most notable alumni.

This is less an exhibition, more a celebration of the contributions that RCA graduates have made to the worlds of art, design and technology. It's not just the familiar names on display. The successes of designers in clothing, the Olympic torch and the motorway sign format are also celebrated. As is Edward Johnston, the man who gave us the modern London Underground roundel and the typeface used throughout the network (since updated, but still essentially Johnstonian).

The exhibition covers the history of the RCA, its foundation as the Government School of Design and how it has evolved as an organisation. Items on display vary from a Porsche 911 — many graduates were involved in the recent re-designs of the car — through to David Mach's coat-hangar sculpture of a cheetah.

Granted, the most famous graduates have some of their lesser known works on display, but the sheer wealth of exhibited items will leave visitors in no doubt of the impact of the RCA and the persons whose careers have been affected by the time they spent at this institution.

Yes, The Perfect Place to Grow is an opportunity for the RCA to blow its own trumpet, but at a time when arts funding is being called into question, the show is also a poignant reminder of the positive impact both art and design can have on our society and culture.

The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 years of the Royal College of Art is on display at the RCA, Kensington Gore, SW7 2EU until 3 January. Admission is free.

Last Updated 20 November 2012