The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition celebrates the joy of creating art
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The Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition celebrates the joy of creating art
Installation view of the Summer Exhibition 2021 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 22 September 2021 — 2 January 2022. Photo: © Royal Academy of Arts, London / David Parry.

LONDON.- The Royal Academy is presenting this year’s Summer Exhibition, which has been delayed until the autumn for the second time in its long history due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The 253rd Summer Exhibition is a unique celebration of contemporary art and architecture, providing a vital platform and support for the artistic community.

Yinka Shonibare RA is the co-ordinator of the Summer Exhibition 2021 and, working with the rest of the Summer Exhibition Committee, explores the theme of ‘Reclaiming Magic’ to celebrate the joy of creating art. Shonibare said “This exhibition seeks a return to the visceral aspects and the sheer joy of art making. It will celebrate the transformative powers of the magical in art and transcend the Western canon which formed the foundations of the Royal Academy, seeking to restore value to marginalised practices as equally valid forms of enlightenment.”

Invited artists this year include Michael Armitage, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Ellen Gallagher, Rita Keegan, Jade Montserrat, Magdalene Odundo, Faith Ringgold and Betye Saar. There is new work for the exhibition by Alvaro Barrington, Angela de la Cruz, Hew Locke, Cassi Namoda, and Lawrence Lemaoana, who has created a large-scale textile kanga. The exhibition is anchored to a special dedication to the self-taught American artist Bill Traylor (1853 – 1949) who was born into slavery and only began to draw his recollections and observations in 1939. Further self-taught artists include Souleymane Fall, Nnena Kalu, Frantz Lamothe, Bärbel Lange, Marie-Rose Lortet, Frank Walter and Johnson Weree.

This year, the Summer Exhibition expands beyond the spatial and visual with a sound programme. The programme, which is intended to be played through personal headphones to enhance the experience of the exhibition, includes soundscapes and poetry by six artists. It is available for visitors to download in advance of their visit via a QR code on the RA website as well as at the entrance to the exhibition.

Having been unable to take part in last year’s exhibition due to the pandemic, David Adjaye RA is now curating this year’s Architecture Room which considers architecture through the expression of ‘Climate and Geography (or vice versa)’ focusing on the context of site, geography, climate, political climate, people, community and culture. Royal Academician architects featured include Farshid Moussavi, Richard Rogers and Caruso St John, and invited architects include Sean Canty, Counterspace and Atelier Masomi. As part of the sound programme, Peter Adjaye, a conceptual sound artist, has created a ‘soundtrack’ for the Architecture Room.

In addition to the large number of public submissions, Royal Academicians and Honorary Academicians are showing new works, including Phyllida Barlow, William Kentridge, Conrad Shawcross, Wolfgang Tillmans and Rose Wylie. John Akomfrah RA has a dedicated gallery showing his video work Peripeteia, 2012.

The Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show and has taken place every year without interruption since 1769. Works from all over the world are judged democratically on merit and the final selection is made during the eight-day hang in the galleries. This year the Royal Academy received over 15,000 entries, of which around 1400 works, in a range of media, are on display. This open, inclusive and democratic show supports the artistic community, art education and provides a display of creativity and joy for the public.

The majority of works in the Summer Exhibition are for sale, offering visitors an opportunity to purchase original work. Funds raised support the exhibiting artists, the postgraduate students studying in the RA Schools and the work of the Royal Academy.

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