The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition (until 16 August) has drawn crowds for over two centuries and something in the eclectic mix ensures it continues to do so. Twelve thousand public send-ins are reduced to a whopping 1200 pieces that offer something for absolutely everyone. The show is a major fund-raiser for the Academy’s school, and exhibits works by unknown and established artists hanging side by side with only a number to identify them.
Each year has a different feel, and this year curator Michael Craig-Martin has injected colour right into the heart of the building, painting the three gracious central halls of the Academy a vivid cerise and blue. And that’s after you have climbed up stairs covered in vibrant coloured tape, an installation by Scottish artist Jim Lambie. This is playful and fun, and despite the numbers, it is so well hung that one gets a sense of space.
South African William Kentridge is now an honourary Academician, and his large studies of African trees give a powerful weight to one of the rooms. On the opposite side of the building is another project, a fifty-year-old labour of love by Tom Phillips. He has turned each page of a Victorian novel into a miniature artwork, creating a fascinating interplay between past and present.