The Royal Academy of Arts, London, has hosted a summer exhibition for the last 247 years. Pretty phenomenal. I’m very big on art galleries, and as this was my first summer as a London resident, I was keen to do as much as possible. My interest in the Summer Exhibition, in particular, was sparked by a documentary on iPlayer that followed the build up to the event by spotlighting several artists who’d submitted work (the exhibition, unlike many, is open to submissions from anyone — artists and non-artists alike) and the curators of the exhibition, too.
Artist Michael Craig-Martin (mentor once to none other than Damien Hirst) co-ordinated this year’s showcase — which gave me yet more reason to pay it a visit, as I was (a little ironically) interested in him and his work. My first trip to the Tate Modern, I must’ve been about 10, was incredibly memorable: an artist had collected junk for three months and then built it into a mound; someone had put tyres all over the floor; and, the most bizarre, was a half full glass of water on a glass shelf, entitled the Oak Tree. I discovered, through the iPlayer documentary, that Craig-Martin was the artist behind it. I had to see what he’s come up with for this exhibition — if that man could imagine a great tree from a bathroom shelf, I was certain the exhibition he curated would be just as wild. I was not disappointed.
The exhibition was absolutely massive! I was quite iffy about the price of the tickets, but I wasn’t even halfway through the exhibit before I’d been mollified. What I particularly enjoyed was the way the art had been displayed. It absolutely broke tradition: each room portrayed the tastes and eye of the curating artist, and paintings hung alone or in clusters or in poorly-formed lines. There were statues, architectural designs, sculptures. It was one of the most diverse showings I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.
These pieces had their own gallery: Gallery X. They were all the work of Tom Phillips, who took the first book he could find for threepence and turn every page into its own, and unique, piece of art. The book, A Human Document, is now part of something much, much larger (and something that Phillips constantly revises) – The Humument.
If you’re looking for something to do this summer – look no further. With 10 days left ’til it closes, you’ll need to get cracking. Even if you don’t think you’ll be able make the exhibition, you’ll still be able to view each and every piece through the ‘Summer Exhibition Explorer”, an online virtual gallery. Book tickets, read more, find pieces to buy (!!), and engage with the exhibition all right here.
I am wearing:
Herringbone trousers, by Asos (here, and on sale!)
Black loose fit tee, by H&M (similar here)
Black monk shoes, by Truffle (I love Truffle, really recommend them! Similar here, though in brogue)
Gold arrow necklace, by Michael Kors (similar here, here, and here)
Tortoiseshell sunglasses, by Tiger (similar here)
Hope you’ve been enjoying your summer as much as I have! xx