Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, 2010

I went to the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition the other day.

It wasn’t very good.

image by Rain Rabbit

I always try really hard to find a positive in an exhibition and this one was no different, however I really do defy you to come out of it feeling anything other than weary. Luckily there were a few pieces which caught my eye for the right reasons (all contained within the room devoted to architectural maquettes) but the rest just felt so… blah? In fact it was pretty much the polar opposite of the theme ‘Raw’. A case in point was Room VIII (see the picture above) which purported to contain “some of the most provocative images in this year’s show”. The wall text sums this provocation up as follows:

Take Derek Boshier’s painting of The Dinner Party,where the guests include a woman with a goldfish-bowl face and a man with a horse’s head. Or how about Tracey Emin’s big, undoubtedly ‘raw’ picture,where she has scrawled ‘But I Love You’ in blood-red capitals alongwith the words ‘Sometimes I Don’t Think’.

It feels like it’s trying too hard. I don’t think I’ve ever been shocked by an art exhibition and the selections for the Summer Exhibition didn’t even come close to provocation beyond provoking me to try the next room in search of something more interesting.

Part of the problem was the setting. Rina Banerjee had a stunning exhibition recently at the Haunch of Venison gallery and her vibrant pieces really shone but, marooned in Room IV, a lone work of hers just looked slightly sad. I’m willing to believe that some of the other works suffered from a similar lack of context and individual care (although a great number would have been mediocre no matter where they were placed).

So was there anything I liked?

The Migration of Mel and Judith by Thomas Hillier. There’s no image of it that I can find online but it was a lampshade which had been converted into the current home of fictional couple Mel and Judith who went travelling in Egypt in their bread caravan. It became a papercraft dwelling, complete with beer jetty and rose bread kitchen. Tiny realistic paper coats hung on paper coathooks upstairs and paper ketchup bottles stocked a paper cupboard. It was a charmingly fantastical self contained world and clearly a labour of love on the part of the artist. It also rewarded the curious with more and more details creeping to attention just when you were about to turn and leave.

The only other work of his I could track down via Google was on Origami Blog but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for his name in future.

Oh, and if my review hasn’t put you off the Summer Exhibition is on at the Royal Academy until August 22.