Tuesday, 12 August 2008

I don't know much about art, but...

I know what I like. This is never truer than when visiting the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Every year around 13,000 pieces of work are submitted by hopeful members of the public, and then whittled down by a number of Royal Academicians to a more manageable 1,200. The successful exhibitors not only have the kudos of having their works hung alongside those of established academicians (Ken Howard RA being one of my favourites), but also the satisfaction of knowing that their paintings grace the same walls where once hung works by Turner and Constable.

Yvonne and I spent a couple of hours at said exhibition yesterday. The first couple of rooms were given over to the works of late academicians. In the first room, a charcoal drawing of a lady called Wendy was (I thought) rather optimistically priced at £40,000. Rather like the eyes of the Mona Lisa, there was a part of Wendy (a part not generally displayed in polite company) that followed you round the room. I just thank God it didn't wink at me.

My favourite bit of the gallery was the Small Weston Room, where the work of the amateur artists (I'm never sure about the word amateur; most of the exhibitors are clearly anything but)was literally crammed in from floor to ceiling. Have you ever seen any of those eighteenth century paintings of art exhibitions, with bewigged dandies admiring the latest offerings from fashionable artists, whose works are hung with barely a millimetre between them? It was just like that. I always feel sorry for those whose paintings are hung so high up that it's almost impossible to see them. I'm sure that, if I'd had a work accepted, I'd like to be photographed standing next to it. The only way you'd manage it in many cases was if you were atop a ten foot ladder.

As always, there were some excellent offerings. I particularly liked Storm from the kitchen window, 1 by Leonard Rosoman RA, and Rye from Rock Channel by Karl Terry, the latter being realistically priced at £250. And well worth it, I say. But who can forget Robin-Lee Hall's Happy biscuits, a faithful representation of a plate of Jammie Dodgers? Who said art wasn't accessible?

You might like to read Guardianista Phil Hogan's account of the selection process for the RA's summer exhibition, plus a resume of the show itself. He gives the low-down on what the zebra and the lady were doing in Room VIII. I'm too embarassed to say.


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