Ah the Summer Exhibition… perfect to wind down after a long day! The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is an event I look forward to every year. For those new to the Exhibition, it is a show of selected works from both Royal Academicians (RA) and non-academicians, with its rooms created by individual curators.
The art is for sale, and ranges from the relatively affordable (generally small pieces or prints in editions of 100) to the expensive (in the five-six digit range). I have yet to buy anything but the summer exhibition is in itself a good showcase of what is happening in the contemporary art world.
Although some rooms are more airy than others, some of the Summer Exhibition walls are pretty crammed. For instance, the Lecture room must have 20-30 paintings per wall (I didn’t count but that was my impression). I felt I had no leisure to focus on one painting but needed to be more selective. The more I saw of the show, the more I wondered… what makes us want to buy artwork? Aside from investment considerations, would we consider buying a piece because we like the colours, the general harmony of the painting, the representation of a city or place which means something to us, a specific theme or style that reminds us of some other works we like? Or would it be only simply driven by a “coup de coeur”?
The answer is of course subjective and personal. And guess what? I found something I like, and would consider buying! Teacups in the Financial Times (Benjamin Hope). I first thought of it as a Photorealism piece – although I don’t particularly like Photorealism so it isn’t the art style that attracted me. Having a second look, the piece resembles a modern Dutch art still-life; in part due to the white and blue porcelain, similar to Delft pottery. I appreciated the harmony of the still life and the arrangement of colours. The orange newspaper, all too familiar to me, might also be part of the appeal. Oops – its £17,000£! Oh well. I forgot price is a key purchase factor!
I recognised some of last year exhibitors, including my prior year coup de coeur Bernard Dunstan RA, an artist I would classify as modern impressionist. His Sitting on the bed strongly recalled a painting that Bonnard would have made of his wife Marthe. Stephen Cox (RA) exhibited a similar, if not the same work, as in 2012 (Golden ladder heads: up). Higher on the price scale, conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin RA presented new pieces. (See my post of last year’s Summer Exhibition)
This year, architecture was mixed with sculpture rather than being kept in a dedicated room. Not a bad thing I thought. Isn’t an architectural maquette a sculpture at the end of the day? You can’t help but wonder if some of the projects went through as they are extraordinarily imaginative. The final room shows works from Grayson Perry RA, not for sale I believe, displaying a playful use of tapestry for contemporary art (his drawing style reminded me of the French children’s comic book Tom-Tom and Nana!). You can make of your summer exhibition visit whatever you like, a short stroll, prospective shopping or looking at works more in depth. In any case, it is always a pleasure. The Summer Exhition runs until 18 August.