I had a day out in London on Friday and went to the Summer Exhibition. Now, you should understand that this is a long-standing tradition with me: I love being a Friend of the Royal Academy, and I love going to the Summer Exhibition, and I particularly love going to the preview of the Summer Exhibition, because you can swan around looking at the paintings with a glass of Pimms in your hand feeling like it’s the first day of summer.
(And it was, by the way – I had a perfectly glorious day for a quick trip down to London. Went for a meeting at the OTS in the morning and then strolled through St James and Green Parks and nearly got sunburned! Then had a bit of a twitter spat with the RA because there wasn’t a catering outlet in the building that had anything vegetarian that wasn’t an egg sandwich or required an hour of queueing grrr! I wouldn’t mind, but the LAST time I was in the RA building was to try out the new restaurant in the Keeper’s House which – allegedly – has a vegetarian tasting menu on Tuesdays. It was a Tuesday, but the staff reaction was all a bit “we do a tasting menu? For vegetarians?? Seriously???”)
Anyway, the notes I made on my phone at the time tell me that Hughie O’Donoghue’s main room is a delight, the print rooms are stuffed with covetable things (two Michael Craig-Martin screenprints, “Violin (Chatsworth)” and “Spotlight: NT at 50”, were particularly covetable – £1440 and £1140 respectively, if you’re shopping for my birthday present) but that I loathed everything (and the hanging) of the large AND small Weston rooms. I drifted fairly quickly through the architecture rooms and was briefly fascinated by the table sculptures. There’s something about wandering around with your programme and imagining you had money – what would you buy? We agreed that, if it turned out either of us had won the £80+m on the eurolottery, we could probably come back and spend a quarter of a million or so quite easily. On the other hand there were large numbers of works that I wouldn’t have had if they were given away free with a packet of tea (the portrait of the woman with the vile three dimensional neon green breasts, for example). I still can’t believe, however, that I missed Una Stubbs’ portraits of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman – I’m *definitely* going to have to go again now!
The best part, I think, was the black and white room which was full of an angry energy, mostly directed at Michael Gove. There was one work outside the room which consisted of a placard which read “all schools should be art schools” which is so true you wish someone would pick it up and whack Gove round the head with it.
The one that will linger with me, though, is the black and white placard (also by Bob and Roberta Smith) which simply reads “IN 2013 14% LESS CHILDREN CHOSE ART AT GCSE THAN DID IN 2010”. Do you think they’d arrest me if I went back with a red marker pen and replaced “less” with “fewer“?