The RA Summer Show – Like It or Loath It?

Each year, I really enjoy reading the reviews of the RA Summer Exhibition – there’s nothing like it for polarizing opinion amongst the art critics. Here are a few from last year’s show (2011).
Jonathan Jones in the Guardian says this:
‘I have a modest proposal to put to the Royal Academy. Every summer, there is a strange imbalance in its galleries. The vast salons on the main floor are given over to the RA summer exhibition. Superannuated sculptors, paltry painters and a ragtag of would-be titans have their day, for months. The public comes, for its sins. Critics try to find the good in it, and retch and redden in the courtyard, disgusted by this rite of mediocrity’. 
And again:
‘in future, the Royal Academy should cram its entire summer exhibition into the Sackler Galleries. They must admit the truth: there is barely enough worthwhile art in the summer exhibition to fill this cramped attic space. They could either select the handful of moderately good works and hang them ā€“ it would be a nice, spacious little exhibit ā€“ or just leave everything stacked and heaped around the floor, and let people sort it through as if at a jumble sale.’ 
Do you get the impression he’s not too keen? Read the whole article here
A review by Brian Sewell in the London Evening Standard takes the traditional view:
‘If the Academy has ever demonstrated anything in its Summer Exhibitions, it is that when large works and small are crowded together the “rhetoric of the small” is based on logic, judgment, purpose and clarity, while the large depend on size for their effect – an old trick of art in the service of tyrannical politics. Were I a collector I’d go first to the Small Weston Room (known to my generation as the Small South Room) and look with a keen eye at the paintings crowded there.’
 ‘I have always felt sorry for the handful of skilled professional print makers exhibiting in the Academy, swamped by the bagatelles of amateurs and filthy rich painter-Academicians who, at the peak of their game, need neither the notice nor the cash.’ 
See the whole article here 
And Alistair Sooke takes a reasonable view in the Telegraph (imagine!): 
“Today, suspicion persists that it remains a safe haven for traditional painters who take the “common-sense” view that a picture of a tree must resemble a tree. Yet it strikes me that denigrating the Summer Exhibition is a peculiarly self-flagellating British trait. Nobody could claim that it is cool, or cutting edge. But it is the largest open-submission contemporary art exhibition in the world: this year, the hanging committee vetted more than 12,000 entries from 27 countries.”
See the rest here
I guess we can all make up our own minds in a few days – it opens on the 4th June…..


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