Over 1,000 Works Of Art In One Show - It Can Only Be The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition

Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Art ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 19 months ago

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Over 1,000 Works Of Art In One Show - It Can Only Be The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Art 3
Yinka Shonibare's colourful sculpture flanks Joshua Reynolds in the courtyard.

249 years young, at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition these days, you can see over 1,000 works of art in one fell swoop. From big players like Anselm Kiefer, to emerging artists you may never have heard of — ultimately this a show about selling art. But browsers are more than welcome. And we encourage you to be one of those browsers.

A rusted scooter with jugs for wings greets visitors.

Some things never change; every year there are dedicated rooms to architecture and photography; another room packed to the brim with the smaller works; and plenty of works by Royal Academy members — these Academicians tend to be well established artists.

A fleshy Anish Kapoor in the dark themed room.

The Academician overseeing the curation and hanging of the show this year is Eileen Cooper. Cooper creates personal paintings of figures but she's also responsible for the Royal Academy schools, so many of her students make an appearance in this show (what a wonderful opportunity for them).

A Conrad Shawcross sculpture. A smaller version to the one that dominated the courtyard at the previous Summer Exhibition.

Two of the strongest rooms, interestingly, are where Cooper has ceded control to her fellow Royal Academicians. Fiona Rae has curated themes of both darkness and dark themes — dark grey walls, a fleshy Anish Kapoor sculpture (seemingly bursting forth from the wall) and a heavily layered Anselm Kiefer painting create nightmarish overtones.

Zak Ove's 'angel' has a skull for hat.

Yinka Shonibare's room, meanwhile, focuses on symbols of migration and African culture. It's another refreshing angle to explore in an exhibition which usually plays it safe by keeping the tone lighter.

We like this spiky fellow.

Speaking of heavy works, an entire room is dedicated to a film by Isaac Julien. The beautifully shot piece explores migration and opulence across five screens. Though powerful, the Summer Exhibition feels like the wrong place for this work. With so many people bustling about, it's difficult to digest a cerebral work such as this. It almost needs its own exhibition.

Cornelia Parker has suspended and flattened silverware on show.

As for Yinka Shonibare's colourful sculpture next to Joshua Reynolds's statue at the entrance — followed by an inaugural room of yellow walls, neon works by Tracey Emin, postcard racks and a rusting scooter — it's a visually-striking entrance to a show that grows evermore brooding.

The Summer Exhibition is on at Royal Academy of Arts from 13 June-20 August. Tickets are £14 for adults.

Last Updated 09 June 2017