With a month left to visit the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, it’s an excellent time to see the art on show now the bustling crowds have dispersed
Words Patrick Hamilton Courtney
Alongside Henley, Glyndebourne, and all the other markers in the social calendar sits the Summer Exhibition, the RA’s annual open-submission art extravaganza. For 249 years the exhibition has offered artists from all walks of life and career stages the opportunity to submit works to be judged for inclusion. Those selected receive widespread exposure to new audiences and collectors, an invaluable benefit to many of the amateur and fledgling artists the show supports.
Events kick off with a star-studded, champagne-fuelled party, which leads into the first few weeks of big crowds and feverish buying. Most of the works at the exhibition are for sale, and the many successful artists who participate attract a number of both serious and occasional collectors. With works to suit every budget, it’s not all big-ticket items and there are many affordable pieces, some for less than a hundred pounds. The first few weeks of the exhibition tend to be very busy, with people eager to snap up well-priced work of the best quality.
This year, the curating gauntlet was picked up by Eileen Cooper RA, who undertook the task of whittling down the thousands of submissions received. Cooper has decided to explore themes of discovery and new talent, topics she is well-suited to examine given her position as Keeper of the Royal Academy – the person entrusted with guiding new students of the RA’s celebrated art schools.
Many household names are exhibiting such as Anthony Gormley RA, Tracey Emin, Sir Michael Craig-Martin RA, Wolfgang Tillmans, Phyllida Barlow, Barbara Rae RA, and Marina Abromovic. Other important art world figures featured include Secundino Hernandez, Isaac Julien, Hassan Hajjaj, and Mark Wallinger. This year’s courtyard sculpture was conceived by installation artist Yinka Shonibare RA, who’s created a six-metre high, brightly coloured wind sculpture that has served as a photo target for a thousand Instagram posts.
Even after works have been purchased they remain on display until the exhibition closes, so now is the ideal time to view the art in a crowd-free environment. Whether you’re looking to make an acquisition or not, the Summer Exhibition is an enchanting afternoon out that mixes together paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by artists from all over the country.