The Royal Arts Summer Exhibition 2016 (The VH Review)

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There’s so much to see and take in once again at this year’s summer exhibition at the Royal Arts Academy, which is coordinated this time by the world-renowned British sculptor, Richard Wilson. The world’s largest open-submission exhibition has been showcasing artists’ works from all over the world for nearly a quarter of a millennium now, especially known for giving fresh new talents an opportunity to showcase their works at a prominent art institution that is visited by many international guests from all walks of life.

The Royal Arts Summer Exhibition is the place where one cannot differentiate which artists are already established and internationally known from the ones who are only starting out their artistic career. Artists from all levels and backgrounds are put side by side. It is where many up and coming artists’ works are probably being housed under the same roof of pieces created by those who have influenced them in their artistic path.

ra summer 2016 2

The amount of works being displayed at the exhibition is truly overwhelming. There are more than 10 gallery rooms at the exhibition which consists over 1,200 art works crafted by both established and emerging artists. From painters, sculptors, photographers, illustrators, architects, designers to mixed media and multi-disciplinary artists, there is a sense of belonging for all types of creative souls at the Burlington House. Viewers will not be bored either, there’s always something to be seen; up, down, from left to right, corner to corner. There’s something for everyone to feel and ponder about. Minds will be in constant wonder mixed with admiration.

Since artists from all levels and disciplines are welcomed at the most popular annual art exhibition in the UK, attempting to absorb each of the pieces is a feat.  The exhibition showcases numerous quantities of compelling and dynamic works from an exceptional array of diverse artists. Kutlug Ataman’s The Portrait of Sakip Sabanci which took 3 years to complete due to its 10,000 or so LCD panels is a multi-image video installation created for the 10th death anniversary of the Turkish magnate and philanthropist, Sakip Sabanci. The installation displays images of the thousands of people who have crossed paths with Sabanci in some shape or form. It is a grand commemoration of his humanity and the lives of many who he shared his outlook on life with. We also see the venerated architect and late Dame Zaha Hadid’s aerial view painting of the Cardiff Bay Opera House. The delicate, humble works by the Japanese artist, Aono Fumiaki in Gallery VI demonstrates how art can be used to heal and incite a little ray of hope by restoring everyday items such as bowls, books, cassette tapes, notebooks and sake bottles destroyed by the natural disasters of the great east Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011. There is also The Small Weston Room solely to exhibit the black and white photography series by Bernd and Hilla Becher which shows a collection of water towers and cylindrical gas tanks. The galleries may be spacious but the fact that there is an extensive amount of works being showcased, it can feel a bit claustrophobic, especially if viewers are gathering to see certain artworks that will surely get everyone’s attention, like the eerie sculpture by Jake & Dinos Chapman entitled, The New Arrival.

Kutlug Ataman’s 'The Portrait of Sakip Sabanci'
(Kutlug Ataman’s The Portrait of Sakip Sabanci)
The late Dame Zaha Hadid's Cardiff Bay Opera House - Aerial View Painting
(The late Dame Zaha Hadid’s Cardiff Bay Opera House – Aerial View Painting)
The restoration of a sake bottle collected in Miyagi, Japan after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
(The restoration of a sake bottle collected in Miyagi, Japan after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011.)
(Bernd and Hilla Becher's Water Towers: (Bahnhof) - Photography series)
(Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Water Towers: Bahnhof – Photography series)
(The New Arrival by Jake & Dinos Chapman)
(The New Arrival by Jake & Dinos Chapman)

Make sure to stretch your neck to avoid it from straining if you’re thinking about visiting the exhibition during its final days. There’s a lot of looking up depending on which gallery you are entering. With paintings and photographs framed one above the other or sculptures positioned way too high can be tiring and may give some a slight dizzy spell. If you’re lucky enough to attend the exhibition when the gallery rooms are not so jam-packed, you can take a few of steps back and admire the artworks displayed high up against some of the gallery walls. But not to fret, you can see all the works in the exhibition all over again on the Royal Academy Arts website. Too high or not, it still doesn’t hinder the truly impressive variety of works being exhibited.  There are so much art works and artists that are calling out to be recognized and remembered. Give yourself a good 2 hours or even 3 to fully engulf yourself with the exhibition. Having opened in June, its last day is fast approaching. Its final day of viewing will be this Sunday 21st August, book your tickets in advance and as said above. It is not an exhibition with works that can be just ‘looked at’, they demand to be acknowledged.

This year’s RA Summer Exhibition is like being in an artistic maze. It’s fun, can be scary and give you a bit of anxiety sometimes, but know you will be alright, better perhaps when you exit. Richard Wilson has done a great job categorizing art pieces by themes and ambiance. The exhibition is beautifully chaotic and I think Wilson’s vision for this year’s summer exhibition has been executed superbly.

Click here to buy tickets and to find out more information about the RA 2016 Summer Exhibition.