What To Make Of This Year's Summer Exhibition At The Royal Academy?

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 56 months ago
What To Make Of This Year's Summer Exhibition At The Royal Academy?
Grayson Perry RA
 The Adoration of the Cage Fighters, 2012
 Wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester and silk tapestry, 200 x 400 cm
 Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London and British Council.  Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, The Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from AlixPartners. / ?? Grayson Perry
 Photography ?? Stephen White
Grayson Perry RA The Adoration of the Cage Fighters, 2012. © Grayson Perry Photography © Stephen White
El Anatsui, TSIATSIA - searching for connection, 2013,
 Aluminium, (bottle-tops, printing plates, roofing sheets) and copper wire, 15 x 23 metres. 
 ?? Benedict Johnson
El Anatsui, TSIATSIA - searching for connection, 2013. © Benedict Johnson
Lecture Room, installation view. Summer Exhibition 2013. Photo credit: John Bodkin
Lecture Room, installation view. Summer Exhibition 2013. Photo credit: John Bodkin
Julian Opie
 Maria Teresa 1, 2011
 Inkjet on canvas, 192 x 119.6 cm
 ?? Julian Opie and Lisson Gallery
Julian Opie Maria Teresa 1, 2011. © Julian Opie and Lisson Gallery
Anthony Caro RA
 Shadows, 2013
 Steel, 350 x 8000 x 310
 ?? Barford Sculptures Ltd. 
 Photography: John Hammond
Anthony Caro RA Shadows, 2013. © Barford Sculptures Ltd. Photography: John Hammond

Even though it's been an annual fixture for 245 years, the Summer Exhibition is hard to categorise — falling somewhere between an art fair and a curated show, with works for sale next to massive installations that would be more suited to a blockbuster exhibition. The open submission policy means that virtually unknown artists are offered the chance of getting their work displayed next to that of Royal Academicians.

It's the well-known artists who've understandably been given the chance to dominate this show, which opens with Anthony Caro's monumental rusting sculpture and ends with Grayson Perry's humorous tapestries exploring Britain's class divides.

Despite taking centre stage, the works by many Royal Academicians are disappointing with even the usually dependable David Mach failing to shine. The one exception is Bill Jacklin, whose subtle paintings of people exposed to the elements stand out among the wall-to-wall works, despite their small size.

Normally in such a crowded setting it's the bold and bright works that catch the eye, but in this year's show the subtler works earned our admiration. These included Hen Cotman's all-black etching of the moon, which is full of intricacies, and John Duffin's atmospheric monochrome views of London at night.

The two major highlights for us are both photographic works. Petros Chrisostomou's wig made to look huge through its placement in a small-scale replica of a room, transforms an everyday item into something disturbing. And there's a breathtaking shot of a woman lying abed by the talented emerging artist Juno Calypso.

However, these excellent works are in the minority, even the room dedicated to architecture felt mundane despite being one of our favourite galleries at the last two summer exhibitions. There are over 1,250 works on display, almost guaranteeing that the visitor will find works to like, but the hit to miss ratio was far too low for us.

Summer Exhibition is on at The Royal Academy Of Arts until 18 August. Tickets are £10 for adults, concessions available. If you want to see works that didn't make the cut, visit Not The Royal Academy at Llewelyn Alexander Gallery, 124-126 The Cut, SE1 8LN. Closes 22 August, admission is free.

Last Updated 17 June 2013

Disappointed

I agree with the comments above. Too many of the Royal Academicians' work appeared to be within their established comfort zone and did not appear to embrace the challenge of moving forward to new or innovative work.