Monday 31st July

| BY Finn Blythe

Our Highlights From The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition 2017


The first thing to say about the 249th Royal Academy Summer Show is – it’s a biggie. Never a problem with us – the bigger the better, we say – and somewhat expected from the largest open submission exhibition in the world. This years show, curated by British painter and Keeper of the Royal Academy, Eileen Cooper, is composed of around 1,200 works whittled down from 12,000 digital entries.

That equates to a lot of rooms and a lot of walking about, but that’s also the magic of the show; a space in which the works of internationally renowned artists, including Georg Baselitz, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin, rub frames with the lesser knowns, who each year throw up some real gems. Here’s five that stayed with us:

‘The Crossing’ by Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga

Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga is a Kenyan artist whose wall hanging sculptures often centre around the re-appropriation of re-cycled materials. The beauty she imbues her everyday materials with is extraordinary – here, recycled cans that have been oxidised and supplemented with dyes are hung together with stainless steel wire, like individual pixels that, together, form an incredible metallic tapestry.

RA2‘Winter Rain Hood Hill’ by Norman Ackroyd

Norman Ackroyd was awarded a CBE in 2007 for services to engraving and printing, meaning it’s fair to say that, when it comes to aquatint etching, as seen above, the man knows what he’s doing. There’s a chilling feel to this piece, a touch of the sublime that forms a continuous theme of his work, here a ghostly tree line that feels like it could be a fading memory from a dream. Or a nightmare. Ooo.


‘Henna Bikers’ by Hassan Hajaj

Hassan Hajjaj AKA ‘The Warhol of Marrakech’ is a Moroccan-born, London-based artist whose work you are probably already familiar with – he also did that photo of a woman wearing her Louis Vuitton niqab, pasted onto the side of a building on City Road. His works are colourful and vibrant, they subvert the prescribed Western narratives of the Arab world and we think they’re utterly brill.

RA5                                                     ‘The Cleaner’ by Marina Abramović

Little known fact about Ten Towers – we love a bit of Marina Abramović – she’s the godmother of performance art, after all. Gaga’s also a fan. Which helps. This is the cover image for her book ‘The Cleaner’ – a huge, week long performance piece held in Sweden earlier this year that drew on shared human experience and the creation of community through basic human contact. Mostly, though, it’s just a proper lovely photo.

‘Coffee Pot Hit with a Monkey Wrench’ by Cornelia Parker

This one had us with the title. Not that you should ever judge a piece of art by its title, but it caught our attention and sometimes that’s enough. Cornelia Parker is no stranger to breaking things, her 1991 piece ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’ involved blowing up a garden shed and then suspending the individual pieces of debris to give the appearance of being frozen in time, or her work ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’, which involved her steamrolling thirty silver tea sets and hanging the resulting 2-D shapes from the ceiling. If you don’t know, get to know.

The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is on until 20th August