summer exhibition 2011

Summer Exhibition 2011
The Royal Academy of Arts

It's time for the annual pilgrimage of art fans in town to the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) for its Summer Exhibition. Some key observations are -

1. There is a lack of digital works - only 6 videos are included in the last room; and while works in all other media are displayed on their own physically, these 6 videos are all squeezed in a tiny monitor screen. Not sure if the artists selected are happy about such arrangement - is that fair to them, dear curator? Or, would it also be the own fault of digital artists that they don't bother to submit works to the Summer Exhibition and hence the fewer quality works to choose from by the curator? And has RA considered placing more  emphasis on emerging formats which connects with the younger audience? Is video art not profitable enough to get more attention?

2. The RA-only installation room curated by Michael Craig Martin is pretty impressive, although some people argue it is merely a branding exercise rather than promoting lesser-known talents. Well, given the total number of works displayed in the show and the price RA charges for entry, it seems fair to have a blockbuster room to satisfy the audience with a taste for big names.

3. Most rooms are still just only displaying works in the same medium, curators are not taking the efforts to select works from different media to compose his/her story. The way which RA picks curators may be the cause of this phenomenon - if these people are not multi-media artists, they would tend to look into works in the medium they practise. However, this does not necessarily benefit the audience - look at how amused people are in the room curated by John Wragg after they walked through 5 other rooms with drawings & prints only in the left wing.

4. The artists' books series is awesome and all the selected works are of high quality and craftsmanship.

5. For those who has a smart phone and intend to visit the show, remember to download the official app before you go. For those who cannot visit the show in person, this £1.19 app could provide a virtual guided tour and over 50 streaming video clips to let you know more about the show.

6. If RA is going to take the Haunch of Venison portion of the Burlington House back for its expansion, it should consider allocating more rooms for the show to give curators more freedom to compose their stories.

7. Although RA is opening late on fridays till 10pm, it is advisable to get up early over the weekend instead if you plan to visit but are not able to do so on weekdays. We love the play of natural daylight shining into the rooms which gives a sense of celebration to the works, rather than the cold artificial light casting on the works after dark which feels like suspect interrogation.

Here are our top picks for the Summer Exhibition 2011 (in no particular order) -

Self Portrait with Budget Box (Red & Black) by Cornelia Parker
Butterfly Army by Frederick Higginson
Untitled (2011) by Edmund de Waal
Monogramm by Georg Baselitz
Meyer's Encylcopedia, Volume II by Alexander Korzer-Robinson
Funnel by David Nash
Bullet Drawing 2011 by Cornellia Parker
Joseph's Leonarvilions by Karl Singporewala
Dog in a Bin by Simon Brundret

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Further Readings -
Page - Official page for the show in RA's website
Review - The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2011: A Culture Show Special, BBC2 (via iplayer, available within UK until 12:19 24.06.2011)
Review - by Alastair Sooke for the Telegraph
Review - by Ben Luke for the Evening Standard
Review - by Mark Sheerin for Culture24
Review - by Gillian Darley for the Architect's Journal