RA summer exhibition review

This will be the first year I have actually had the time to go to the RA summer show, not once but twice!

I was expecting to see a floor to ceiling salon style curation of art. All be it much more modern than the Bourgeois days gone by, that was not to be, the show was much calmer and brighter than expected considering the main theme was a destruction and regeneration of the world around us.

Each year the RA enlists a Royal Academician to co-ordinate the event. This year it was renowned artist Richard Wilson. Whom made his name with a piece of work shown at the Saatchi called ‘20:50’, a pool of oil that casts a near perfect reflection, until disturbed. Within his work he is known for breaking and challenging the rules.


Having him co-ordinate the RA show was no exception to his thinking. He decided to include twenty-two artist duos, which technically isn’t allowed by the RA for their summer show. Personally I’m glad he did, as this show could have been very bland without them.

Instead he has created a flow of dystopian reincarnations, through the artworks to explain that tipping point that this world seems to be swaying towards.Wilson states himself “this once-solid world has begun to disintegrate, slowly returning to the constituent parts from which it was built”

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Starting in the grand stairwell of the RA are the sisters Jane and Louise Wilson. Their large and intense photos of Chernobyl’s haunting desolate buildings are juxtaposed against the vast grandeur and reflections of the chandeliers.

This sets the whole tone of an exhibition that walks us through destruction and regeneration, via a pathway of artworks that are both disturbing and enlightening at the same time.



Walking through this show certain works jump out at you like the intriguing petrified petrol pump by artist duo Allora & Calazadilla or Anselm Kiefers vast painting with his trademark lead book called “Bose Blumen” (evil/bad flowers) .



The work of Allen Jones greets people as they entre the Central Hall. But none of this detracts from some of the many fine artworks of painting, prints and drawings that are scattered on the walls.


Disappointment did greet me within the architecture room. Although there were some very important and detailed works like the homage paid to the late Zaha hadid. There was nothing quite powerful or engaging enough to make you stop and think twice about it. This display was set to a side area, which meant if it wasn’t your taste you could quite easily bypass it and not disrupt your journey.

What did make you stop and think and think again was the Chapman brothers. In their usual genre of mixed media sculpture juxtaposing the gruesome and disturbing with a satirical twist, is just what this show needed to get the full feel of a dystopian world about to be regenerated.



As you walk towards the end of the show again you notice each room is thoughtfully laid out with a mix of amateur and professional artworks. The last room seems to be more dedicated to the regeneration aspect of the whole event with world ideas, nature and still film photos and flowers.


The RA does hype up the summer show quite a lot, which I fully understand, as most of the work is up for sale and by more than just the average amateur but also the well-known house hold names like Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker, Alan Jones and Tracey Emin, to name a few. With all the pomp of the RA it feels like an elitist event, which is still set in its ways even with the artist duos being allowed to show, there were no art films or sound installations.

For a show in London though it is quite reasonable with under 16’s going free and if you see only one art exhibition this summer then this is the show to see, if you are at all interested in not just modern art but the environment and social issues happening now. As this exhibition has a wide range of the artists that are tackling these issues and making us think about the future.




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