Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Art attack

Yesterday marked the beginning the Royal Academy’s 239th Summer Exhibition. Held annually since the RA was founded in 1768 under the patronage of King George III, the exhibition is the largest open contemporary art show in the world. Works from unknown artists are hung alongside those of famous Royal Academicians such as Tracy Emin and German artist Anselm Kiefer. Other eminent artists on show this year include Michael Craig-Martin, David Hockney and Jasper Johns. Any artist may enter work for the show and the majority of pieces are for sale.

Around 13,000 works were submitted this year, and it is the job of the committee, whose annually rotating membership of practising artists curates the show, to whittle this down to a more manageable number. Around 1,200 works are displayed, and one of the selection methods dates back to the RA’s earliest days. Two wands, one marked ‘D’ and one ‘X’ are used. Any work that manages three ‘D’s (for doubtful) make it through to the next round, while any which get the more ominous ‘X’ are returned to the artist.

This year’s theme was light, prompting the introduction of a whole gallery dedicated to photography. The works on display, however, will encompass a wide range of artistic media, including printing, printmaking, sculpture and architecture. Other features will be a gallery of works by invited artists, which will be curated by sculptor and Turner prize winner Tony Cragg RA. As per tradition there will also be a gallery celebrating the works of Royal Academicians who have died over the past year. This year Kyffin Williams RA and Sandra Blow RA will be remembered.

A highlight of the show will be Hockney’s 40ft scenic painting of Yorkshire, which will be the largest piece on display. The creations of the former Turner Prize nominees Tracey Emin and Issac Julien will feature alongside American artists Johns, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg and Chuck Close. Edith Devaney, the head of the Summer Exhibition at the RA, said she was delighted by this year’s line-up. "There's nothing quite like it in the world,” she said.

Light fantastic: Jeppe Hein, Neon Mirror Cube. Mirror, stainless steel, neon tubes, transformers, 100 x 100 x 100 cm

The show runs until 19 August and tickets cost £7, including a list of works with details of every exhibit in the show. See www.royalacademy.org.uk for more information.

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