Royal Academy Summer Show 2015

For almost 250 years, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (an open-submission juried show of works by known and unknown artists) has been an essential source of funding for RA’s art courses. This is why criticising the show is like picking at a noble charity for the poor quality of their leaflets.

So, no criticism of the exhibition today, just a few things I liked or disliked with a focus on one particular area: a dialogue between traditional art and values of the modern digital world. 

Global “digitalisation” is one of the things our age will be remembered for, so I guess art that explores the human consequences of this universal computerisation is bound to make art history books.

The show has more than 1100 artworks on display. It is simply impossible to appreciate them all before your brain gets short-circuited. I know I missed a lot, even though I visited it twice.

It all begins with the staircase, and it might be wise to hold on to the banisters:

Staircase coloured by vinyl tape by James
Staircase coloured by vinyl tape by James “Jim” Lambie, who is a contemporary visual artist, and was shortlisted for the 2005 Turner Prize

This staircase sets the tone for the whole show, which can be summed up as a colour escapism fete. As racial tensions, religious and territorial wars ravage the planet of digitally isolated (=virtually connected) people, what can be a better artistic response than home decoration and embroidery classes?

No, I am not being sarcastic. I mean it.

The first artwork you see as you enter the exhibition is a cross between a Classic Greek statue and a fruit cocktail.

Captcha No. 11 (Doryphoros) by Matthew Darbyshire – multiwall polycarbonate and stainless steel

I liked it, actually. It is made of identical plastic cells that somehow link up art history with digital 3D printing. This is a smart argument in the digital response to sculpture.


Not everyone could grasp the gravity of its message, though:


Or, perhaps, the lady in the picture looked up its price and was shocked by the £12K price tag,

The next “digital” response from a traditional (and very diverse) artist came in the form of this painting in the pink room:

Derek Boshier, Reining Apps and Blogs, Acrylic, 183×122 cm

Music, nakedness, armoured vehicles, and even death are all present in this collective instragram.

I didn’t like it.

Many interpretations can be offered:

  • Internet blocks or enriches real-life experiences
  • I can go get a life if I quit this blog
  • The web is taking us to a place that we do can’t see yet
  • Regardless of what’s waiting ahead, death gets hold of all of us
  • Make up your own:__________________________________________

Whatever it is, I am sure it is not going to be wiser than a cheap Facebook status. You know why? Because the artist attempts to create a conflict between individual screens, and between all the snapshots and the “natural” background, but it is as dramatic as torments of a rich girl who can’t pick a collar of the right shade of pink for her Chihuahua. In other words, the intellectual depth of this painting doesn’t strike me as something worth £18,000.

Further on, in the architectural room, another sculptural idea of digitalised structures jumps at you with all its gold & scarlet pop-art glory:

Darwin Accelerated, by Adrian Geuze, polyamide and paint. edition of 3

It is very pop, but at least there’s one valid thought in it: its conflict of the natural golden-ratio forms and its rigid “digital” intestines. It would look great in a yacht cabin, I am sure.

Next room to this monster, a very natural installation sprawls on the floor. There is no traditional  vs. digital dialogue going on, but it has some strange power, at least, for me:

David Nash RA, 170 – CORK DOME

If you think paying £55,200 is a tad too much for a concept even this powerful (I know it is powerful, but I don’t care what the concept actually is), find your own cork tree, follow Picasso’s advice and steal the idea.

I know the Cork Dome not about traditional art world, but there are so many artworks there, it is just impossible to stick to my chosen path. Anyway, once I’ve stepped off my topic, we might steal a glance at a few more established Royal Academicians (for the show is peppered with their masterpieces) before I get back to the main track.

Anish Kapoor’s Untitled is proudly exhibited in a glass cube: it seems his preoccupation with shapes and forms that are reminiscent of organic waste continues unabated.

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Tracey Emin gives the audiences what they want most: pets. I am sure she will sell all her aquatint drawings long before the end of the show, even at £810 she charges for each of the 50 prints).5-hare-by-tracey-emin-gq-8jun15-pr_b_720x1080

I guess, Tracey Emin follows in the footsteps of Damien Hirst, who once proudly announced (after a successful sale of his art in Moscow) that he could sell any shitty doodles if he signed it.

The curator of the exhibition was, of course, also exhibiting his usual consumer products blown out of proportion (price on request):



I have nothing but respect for Antony Gormley, who is about to take us back on the digital path with his living room-sized sculptures made of cast iron (£174,000 each, and there are 6 of them).


These pixelized people (?) are his iconic signature pieces. I bet one of them is bound to appear in popular crime fiction as a tool for murder in the next couple of years. Also, a note for movie-makers: red blood on black iron is especially arresting, but I am sure you’ve thought of this already. It’s not that the whole idea is new. Derek Boshier, who painted the instagram painting above created a similar Dark Web series almost ten years ago:


Fortunately, there are a few more interesting pieces to see.

This metal panel blew my mind away.


I have two boys with whom I’ve traveled through the whole of Star Wars saga, and that’s just something from a galaxy far, far away. If you own a spaceship or plan to steal one, it’s a must have. Believe me, I could watch this piece, all the way up, and then all the way down, for hours on end.

It is important, though, to NOT find out its title (very grim). It was created by the late Geoffrey Clarke, RA, and is up for grabs at £60,000 (add electricity bills, if you intend to use it).

I didn’t see traditional – digital dialogue in any other works, but a few items made me smile.

This skeptical boy needs to be put in each and every public office that claims it does it best to case of children, to remind bureaucrats action counts more than words, for instance. It can be done, if the photographer discounts the selling price of £18,750 to something public money can buy. Otherwise, you can use the head of the boy as an avatar picture for comments expressing doubt or disbelief.

Someford Grove Adventure Playground in Tottenham, C-type print by Mark Neville

My last entry now would be this tower of Babel, after Bruegel, by Emily Allchurch.


There’s nothing new in piling current issues in Bruegel’s tower shape, of course. It has been done before, and will be done again. And the childish protest in this work is at the level of cuteness that even the mayor of London could have it in his bedroom. One thing I liked about this collage was this notice:


Yep. So many people waste their energy on dreams of glamorous lifestyles they won’t ever have that it’s time someone showered them with cold water.

In other words, RA Summer Exhibition offers you plenty of the usual boring, pointless, and commercially successful art, but a few diamonds scattered here and there make it worth the hunt – until the 9th of August.



  1. Finally unpretentious it reassures me somewhat as to the existence of my work even if I have trouble to expose undergoing anathema by the “inquisition for my nonconformity … !!!

  2. I wonder there are people would buy such “masterworks”….but I’m only a housewife and don’t understand art, maybe…

  3. The picture of the children was by far the best of the exhibit shown. What does that say about society today, digital or otherwise?
    I was planning to put some of my art work on my blog, if you are interested. I’ve never sold a painting but have had some paintings stollen. They aren’t for sale anyways so the only way you get one is if you are part of the family. The ones I like I keep the ones I don’t I destroy.

    1. Hi, yes, please, I’d love to see what you do in the visual arts department!
      As for the society… well, at least RA Summer Exhibition is not about the society, it’s like an embroidery class in the midst of a plague epidemic.

It would be grand to hear from you now!

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