By indexer
113 days ago

The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition

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The Annual Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts has been a feature of the London “scene” since 1769. It has never missed a year – not even in wartime – which makes the 2018 Exhibition the 250th.

It has always been popular, with the first event attracting 14,000 visitors during the four-and-a-half weeks that it was open. In 1787 the attendance was 50,000, and in 2015 it was 230,000.

So what is it? In a few words, it is a showcase of contemporary art by both established and emerging artists. Works can be submitted for consideration for inclusion by any artist, and a panel of the Academy chooses which ones to accept. There are always far more submissions than there is space available for their display, so the choice is never easy and sometimes controversial.

It has long been a tradition of the Summer Exhibition that the works are displayed cheek by jowl with each other – unlike in a traditional art gallery – so that as many works as possible can be displayed. The visitor is therefore faced with an “art explosion” in every room of the Exhibition.

The Summer Exhibition was originally housed at a former auction house on Pall Mall but moved to Somerset House on The Strand in 1780. In 1869 it moved to Burlington House on Piccadilly, which is where it has been ever since.

The Exhibition has been instrumental in furthering the careers of many famous artists. For example, in 1790 a 15-year-old artist named JMW Turner exhibited for the first time.

Some paintings have attracted such huge interest that they have needed Police presence to control the numbers wishing to see them. These have included “Derby Day” by William Powell Frith in 1858, “The Roll Call” by Elizabeth Thompson in 1874, and Pietro Annigoni’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II in 1955.

The Exhibition has sometimes given rise to controversy and argument. One notable controversy arose in 1938 when the Selection Committee rejected Wyndham Lewis’s well-known portrait of T S Eliot. This decision led the artist Augustus John to resign from the Academy in protest.

In 1914 a suffragette (Mary Wood) smuggled a meat cleaver into the Exhibition and slashed John Singer Sargent’s portrait of the novelist Henry James, who was regarded by some suffragettes as being opposed to their cause.

The Summer Exhibition has long been a showcase for artworks other than paintings. Prints and drawings were given their own space as long ago as 1885, and the Exhibition is notable for the many sculptures and architectural drawings and models that it features.

The 2018 Exhibition, which closed on 19th August, was curated by Grayson Perry. More than 1,350 work were exhibited, many of them being offered for sale as is the usual practice.
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Shavkat I hope I can visit this place. I am sure there are so many things to learn in this kind of exhibit.
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indexer @Shavkat You are too late for this year's exhibition, but there is one every Summer!
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Shavkat @indexer I hope I can make it to that event.
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