This year celebrates the 250th anniversary of the RA Summer Exhibition, an art exhibition originally founded to be open to artists of all merits to submit their work to. This means that it is open to established RA members who are currently working on behalf of the gallery, established artists who aren’t members, and unknown artists, too.
Working with a committee, artist Grayson Perry has coordinated this year’s exhibition. Hotly anticipated to be a show with a difference, DB London’s Emma Hunter went along to find out why this year is the most colourful and successful year ever…
1. Grayson Perry is the coordinator
Contemporary artist and RA member Grayson Perry is known for his work in ceramics and textiles, along with his female alter-ego Claire, with whom he chronicles British life and prejudices, often stirring up mixed emotions between humour, anger and fear. By enlisting Perry there was a clear motivation that this year was about doing things differently, and he has coordinated the show under the theme of ‘Art Made Now’, hinting towards a collection of contemporary works with something to say.
2. There are more unknown artists than ever before
One of the key differences this year is that there are more open entrants than ever before. The RA historically has an ambition to democratise art, but with allotted quotas to fill for established artists the accessibility for new talent hasn’t always been easy. But this year the rules have changed, with more open competition. As Perry says, “The RAs have to fight it out with Joe Bloggs, and that’s what’s great about it. Sometimes Joe Bloggs comes off better.” In this way an unknown’s work hails the same status as an established artist, delivering on an ambition of democratisation.
3. Take a look into the nation’s psyche
This year’s show reveals a darker undertone, with plenty of art highlighting current issues the UK is experiencing. These include politically charged works displayed in an area touted the ‘Brexit Wall’ along with some pictures of the Grenfell tragedy.
Through this selection it is clear that Perry wants to draw attention to subjects that both the entrants and he feel strongly about.
4. The most colourful, fun collection of art you’ll ever see
As you walk into the main room you are hit with colour, and Perry has had the space painted bright yellow. The walls are jam-packed full of works delivering an experience of walking into a treasure-trove jumble-sale exuding colour and excitement.
As Perry puts it, “Yes. Colour and fun, colour and fun. I’m trying to get everything to zing off each other”.
5. This is the broadest representation of art made now
This year the committee has encouraged more ‘outsider’ artists to submit to ensure that the exhibition displays the broadest representation of art made now. These are people who create art without conventional structures or formal training, working with artists related to The Museum of Everything, The Koestler Trust (the UK’s best-known prison arts charity), and Bethlem Museum of the Mind, which supports mental healthcare through art.
So often in what we do it can be a snapshot of something we see that triggers the most unique and exciting ideas. So I encourage you to get down to the RA, as with such a variety of curiosities and visual delights on display, who knows where it could lead you.
The Summer Exhibition 2018 will be open at The Royal Academy of Arts, London until 19th August 2018, and you can find out more here.
Lead image credit: Grayson Perry, Selfie with Political Causes, Woodcut, 200 x 300cm, The artist and Paragon | Contemporary Editions Ltd (shared with us by the lovely people from the RA).