RA Summer Exhibition 2017 Twelve Highlights by Sara Faith

Artlyst has selected some of the highlights of this year’s Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition which this year has opened its arms to international artists and those working in a variety of media including video, performance art, textiles, found objects alongside more traditional arts of painting, sculpture, photography, drawing and printmaking.

This year the RA has opened its arms to international artists and those working in a variety of media including video, performance art

An annual staple of London’s art scene is the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition which is the largest open submission exhibition in the world and helps finance the training of artists at the Royal Academy Schools.  The 249th edition is co-ordidnated by Royal Academician Eileen Cooper with the help of the hanging committee which this year includes Yinka Shonibare, Rebecca Salter, Ann Christopher, Gus Cummins, Bill Jacklin, Fiona Rare and Farshid Moussavi. Cooper, a Goldsmiths and Royal College of Art graduate, is a painter, printmaker and a distinguished teacher. Her own style is instantly recognisable and often described as “magical realism”.  Her aim as the co-ordinator was to include artists from across the world and across generations working in different media.  So alongside the Royal Academicians and open submissions international artists have been invited to participate including Secudino Hernandez, Isaac Julien and Tomoaki Suzuki. 

Other Royal Academicians featuring this year include Gilbert & George with their large-scale work from their “Beard Speak’ series, Phyllida Barlow, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Sean Scully, Bob and Roberta Smith and Wolfgang Tillmans alongside Honorary Academicians Marina Abramovie, Jim Dine and Mimmo Paladino.

The prestigious £25,000 Charles Wollaston Award has been awarded to Isaac Julien for his film Western Union: Small Boats. 

The prize was established in 1978 and presented to the ‘most distinguished work’ in the exhibition. Filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien was born in the East end of London in 1960 to St Lucian parents.  He studied at Central Saint Martins School of Art, first coming to prominence in 1989 for his drama-documentary Looking for Langston. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2001.

Julien’s five screen film, WESTERN UNION: Small Boats is the concluding part of his Expedition Trilogy.  A contemporary take on Visconti’s film The Leopard, (both are set in Sicily), WESTERN UNION: Small Boats intercuts scenes of opulence with transcontinental migration.   Created in 2007, this marks the first time that the work is installed on five screens. The baroque architecture and the sea and landscape are beautifully realised and seductive to the eye, whilst the narrative highlights the complexities and failures of modern civilization and world politics.  

Lead image: Yiinka Shonibare room

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