Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Royal Academy Summer Show 2014 - Top Ten

Sean Scully, Doric Night
I have visited the Royal Academy Summer Show for the first time in – ooh, a good couple of decades. It has clearly come on in that time. From my own perspective, what is notable is that many of the Young (and youngish) British Artists I was interested in 20 or so years ago now sport ARA after their names and are amongst the great and the good (and not so good) on the walls of the Academy: they are now the establishment.
The Summer Show – once a byword for conservatism and stuffiness – has tried to reinvent itself as a much more vigorous contemporary art exhibition while retaining its famously democratic principles. The exhibition is, indeed, stuffed with well-known names from the world of British art (and beyond – with guest appearance from Anselm Kiefer, Georg Baselitz, Ed Ruscha and James Turrell) and has been organized as a series of curated rooms – some more successful than others.
I enjoyed the rooms curated by Hughie O’Donoghue  (which contained, to mind, the best works in the show) and Cornelia Parker – her black and white theme was engaging and entertaining. However, I was disappointed by John Maine’s room – it broadly sported a Constructivist theme (to which I am highly sympathetic) and might have been expected to be clean and cool, but instead felt fussy and cluttered.
The scale of the show is overwhelming and one can’t hope to take in more than a fraction of the work on display. Although many of my favourite artists were represented it wasn’t always by their best work. My top ten art works are listed below. (Unfortunately I can’t find images for all of them.) 
Watch a video about the show and read reviews by Mark Hudson and Zoe Pilger.
  1. Sean Scully, Doric Night. (see above). Far and away the best thing in the show for me - this fabulous painting occupies the prime space in the first major room curated by O'Donoghue. (NB see also blog entry for Scully's concurrent show Kind of Red)
  2. Mitra Tabrizian, Leicestershire. This photograph of a derelict industrial site is from a series about ‘cultural and political displacement’ but ironically conveys considerable formal beauty.
    Mitra Tabrizian, Leicestershire
  3. Frank Bowling: 4 grand paintings by Bowling dominate the second of the rooms curated by O'Donoghue.
    Frank Bowling, Buttoned It Up Again For Barney and Marco
  4. David Nash, Tumble Block.
    David Nash, Tumble Block
  5. In joint 5th place and getting my prize for curatorial juxtaposition are Phil Shaw and Glen Baxter. The former's 'Mondrian' print of bookshelves of books on Mondrian is next to the latter's drawing, A Recently Discovered 'Lost' Mondrian Receives Authentication From Two Leading Experts In Dutch Paintings Prior To Auction In New York. (No image available.)
    Phil Shaw,  For Piet's Sake II
  6. (see 5)
  7. Richard Wentworth, Not Now. (Books, steel cable and bricks - no image available.)
  8. Geoff Hodgson, Shelter at Twilight. I was delighted to see this beautiful photograph by Geoff Hodgson - an alumnus of the BA Fine Art Photography course at University of Gloucestershire (2005-8).
    Geoff Hodgson, Shelter at Twilight
  9. Anselm Kiefer, Kranke Kunst. (No image available.)
  10. Basil Beattie, Top Up.
    Basil Beattie, Top Up

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