Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy 2019

We went to the summer exhibition again, rather a treat, especially as we started with breakfast at Fortnum and Mason’s (very nice eggs benedict).

As we approached the royal academy, we were met by zombies. At least, they looked like zombies but we can’t be sure, as the sign which explained what the sculptures are was very highfaluting, and not at all understandable. In fact, this was bit of a criticism with all the signs around the exhibition—they were somewhat pretentious, the sort of signs that you read, twice, and then felt completely confused as to what they had actually said. Why they needed to write: “concerns of scale do not contain his ambition” when they could have written: “He likes making big things” is beyond me.

The exhibition was not, I felt, as flamboyant as last year’s, but it was still fun. Here are a few of my favourites:

I loved, of course, all the book-themed installations, especially ones which seemed to be showing how a story can be lifted from a book.

There was a sort of ‘Where’s Wally’ painting, full of famous people to find. As bit of a book nerd who doesn’t watch much telly, many of the characters were lost on me, but I did recognise a few. The painting as a whole had a sort of Central Park feel to it, and was rather fun.

This forest of horses, made of wire, is lovely. I am almost certain that it is the exact same one which I enjoyed last year, which feels like cheating, but it’s still good.

This view of gardens is another one I loved. There is so much going on, and the painting sort of draws you into it.

This photo is rubbish, so you’ll have to imagine, but the sculpture was of lots of crows, on upturned boxes. I can tell you that if you get too close and your coat brushes them, they wobble (but I don’t think you are supposed to do that). There are also headphones, with a soundtrack to listen to. I wouldn’t bother if I were you, it’s not very interesting, and I felt it was another bunch of words where the artist was ‘trying to be clever’ but it didn’t really work. I think perhaps I don’t much like how artists write.

There were a couple of these pictures, with all sorts of flowers and textures growing in the roots of a tree. I couldn’t decide if the artist had created the image and then photographed it, or if they had merged several photos together. Either way, it was clever, and very pleasing to look at. I have no idea who the artist was (because I was too mean to buy a brochure) but I feel the artist was female, and young.

This polar bear on a hoop was in miniature in the entrance hall, and enlarged in another gallery. I think it was made with straw (and an old tyre) but it reminded me of shredded wheat. It had a rather friendly feel to it.

This was a painting, and was simply clever.

This was clever too. White blobs, which are somehow very pleasing to look at.

I love paintings which tell a story, and this one sort of entices you into it.

This photograph I love simply because I can imagine the conversation between the artist and the model. Did she know, when asked to strip off and lie down, that the artist was going to drape an octopus over her? Or did the artist pretend it was jewellery, or damp fabric, and it wasn’t until she saw the picture that she realised what the cold slimy thing was? (Made me chuckle, anyway!)

Of course, part of the fun of the summer exhibition is all the other people who go to see it. There are all sorts of people viewing the paintings, and you overhear all kinds of conversations (which are a great source of characters for your next novel!) As ever, I do have a few feedback points for the organisers, especially with regard to their lighting decisions, where they display some of the smaller works, and, most importantly, who they employ to write their signs. Should they ever decide to write information signs which actually impart information rather than confuse people (gosh, there’s a thought!) then I would be happy to help.

Thanks for reading.
Take care.

Love, Anne x

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Have you visited the Summer Exhibition this year? There are worse things you could do. The annual exhibition at The Royal Academy of Art is always an eclectic mix, as it has an open submission, so the great and famous are displayed next to Aunty Mabel—assuming Aunty Mabel has caught the eye of whoever is this year’s coordinator. This year, Grayson Perry was in charge (he’s the man who resembles a pantomime dame) and, like his dress sense, the exhibition is flamboyant and unexpected. With over a thousand works of art on show, it’s impossible to even notice them individually, never mind trying to assess each one. They range from the completely brilliant, to the absolute rubbish (in my opinion). But overall, the impression is one of colour and fun and strong political statement. This year’s show feels very contemporary, and I for one enjoyed it.

Much of the art, I really do not understand. When I got home, I tried to find online reviews of individual pieces, or at least explanations, but there weren’t any. Perhaps there are too many for the critics to cope with. I will therefore share with you my own highlights and lowlights of the exhibition. I am not an artist, so I expect I missed the point on some of them. However, as art is subjective, I will go ahead and give you my brutally honest review.

 When you first arrive, you’re greeted by this stupendous piece of haberdashery. It is huge, and for anyone who has ever sewn anything and agonised over straight seams, it epitomises skill. It is knitted and sewn and embroidered. I have absolutely no idea what it is meant to signify, or what will happen to it after the exhibition (it will be a nightmare to dust) but I loved it.






 The next gallery is painted bright yellow. This made the room very exciting, even if you didn’t like the art. In fact, I would say that this year, all the galleries could be viewed as a whole—you walked in, and thought “brilliant” or “terrible”, without needing to examine the individual works. Some were displayed so high that you couldn’t see them anyway (unless you happen to have a stepladder in your handbag).

This particular photograph made me laugh. I assume the model is the artist’s mother. No one else would be prepared to dress up as a compost heap. She doesn’t look especially pleased. Hopefully she’s proud of him now.


 This gallery also had a picture by Banksy, with the ‘Vote Leave’ slogan changed by a heart shaped balloon to ‘Vote Love’. It was for sale at the price of £350 million (bit sarcy).

There was also a large portrait of Nigel Farage. Above it was a portrait of a man being sick. Which I’m sure was a coincidence.

The picture on the left was simply a nice picture—one of the few on display that you might actually choose to hang in your own house. It was wonderfully chocolate-box, and little children could write whole stories about it.


 Talking of stories, this should definitely be used for the cover of a book.It had some wonderfully clever imagery, with people of different heights, and all sorts of political messages.






 Here’s one for my Aunty Margaret. Not sure she’s ever knitted/crocheted anything quite like this. Something to aspire to perhaps. Or perhaps not. It wasn’t something you really wanted to look at for long.





 This one was by Harry Hill, who apparently used to be a medic. I didn’t like it. But I guess someone did. It reminded me of the game: ‘Operation’ which we used to play when I was a child. (I didn’t like that much, either.)






 I have no idea why anyone thought this head was worth displaying. If it had been in a primary school art room, it might have been considered good. But not here. And not at that price. 




 This was brilliant. Completely brilliant. It is made from broken egg shells. Wow. Glad I wasn’t responsible for transporting it.








 The carpet bear was another favourite. Though again, I imagine the artist’s mother was somewhat cross when she came home and saw what he’d done to her best rug.








 On the topic of broken things and mothers, next time you break a tea-cup, here’s what you should do with it. A brilliant way to avert anger. It wasn’t until I spotted the handle that I realised it had once been a cup.





 This was a great picture that was spoilt by the terrible lighting in the gallery. I’m not sure why we needed lights on anyway, as the sun was bright enough. Several works were very hard to see. Maybe the exhibition is best visited after dark. Or on cloudy days.








 This one would be impossible to spoil. It was an upturned television and a block of concrete. Why? No idea. My best guess is that it was put out for the bin men and someone took it to the academy by mistake. It said nothing to me, and was ugly. (Sorry if it was your child who created it.)





 This was a display of carved soap. There wasn’t a scent (it just smelt of the pine display rack). Very clever. The soap is prison soap. We had trouble stopping the man next to us from touching it, but I did know what he meant. There was something about it that made you want to touch it.







 This was a chair, with the seat the wrong way up. All I can think is that someone ordered something from IKEA, lost the assembly instructions, and then was too embarrassed to admit they’d messed it up, so entered it to the academy instead. Not something I needed to see.





 I don’t even know what to write about this one. It was sort of hidden behind a display cabinet. Were the workmen having a laugh? Really?






 This was my favourite. Unicorns, galloping through a forest, all made from twisted wires. It was beautiful, a whole story.






 You have to see this one in real life really, as the details are too small. It was very contemporary, with lots of references to politicians and modern life. There was so much to see, it was very skilful, very intelligent, a visual feast.








 As an author, I had to include this one. A finely balanced work of art, which said that we need books to be balanced (at least, that’s what it said to me!) Excellent.



Thank you for looking at the art with me. Try to find time to pop to London to see the exhibition for yourself. It’s there until the end of August.


Have a good week, and don’t melt.

Anne x

Thank you for reading

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