Activities Art

The magic is back! Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021

Summer Exhibition – Royal Academy 2021

The Summer Exhibition has always been one of our annual favourites as there is always so much to see, inspire and educate. So this year, as autumn unfolds its colourful palette we went to admire the abundant creativity on display.

The coordinator of this year’s show, Yinka Shonibare, is making a bold statement through works by ‘previously invisible’ artists and first time entrants exhibiting alongside more established and household names like Michael Armitage or Rita Keegan as well as the brilliant submissions from members of the public.

Entitled “Reclaiming Magic”, the exhibition celebrates the magical beauty in makers and making. The multiplicity of traditional and more unusual materials and techniques deliver a jamboree of stories, colours and statements that reflect the way society expanded civil liberties over a generation. We loved the painted ceramic pineapple by 87 year old RA artist Rose Willie, and started a conversation over the use of bamboo as a sustainable material for manufacturing and construction in the architecture room> Loved talking about costumes, Carnivals and Caribbean ancestry whilst trying hard not to touch the colourful feathers, beads and sparkly gems that makes the ‘I woke up from a dream that gave me wings’ masterpiece costume by Raúl de Nieves.

I woke up from a dream that gave me wings – Raúl de Nieves

The work by artists of colour is noticeable amongst the 1382 works on display with strong historic narratives coming from the work of self taught artist like Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery in 1854 and started making art at the age of 85 only recently coming to prominence as contemporary society shifted values and aesthetics.

Then we have the Chinwe Russell’s portraits of young black people and the funny ‘diseased man’ sculpture made by found objects, fibreglass and resin, cotton and computer keys a nod from Shonibare’s idea of bringing to the forefront materials which might have been previously dismissed as ‘craft’.

Summer Exhibition 2021 – Royal Academy

The galleries are packed with with energy and fun. The subjects are diverse and serious. There are thousands of stories behind each piece of art and we would love to know them all. In our eyes, this year’s show is a real treat that delivers so much more than the usual drawing made by you and me sitting alongside masterpieces from acclaimed artists. There’s so much to inspire both young and old. Go and see it. Take the kids or do it alone. This is like an awesome fireworks display that scares, entertains and brings joy in the night.

Outside the Burlington House, the Royal Academy is taking part in ‘The Piccadilly Art Takeover’ where five RA artists: Michael Armitage, Vanessa Jackson, Isaac Julien, Frashid Moussavi and Yinka Shonibare added colourful art to transform the area and to welcome people back to the West End. Experience Vanessa Jackson’s thirteen colourful pedestrian crossings, lookup to see the 30 hanging flags designed by Michael Armitage, Farshid Moussavi and Yinka Shonibare or spot the decorated lions that are scattered all over London as part of the The Tusk Lion Trail.

The RA is making all the works available to browse online via the Summer Exhibition Explorer, with selected works available to purchase online as well. Also, this year, the exhibition is complemented with a sound programme with spoken word, poetry, abstract soundscapes and musical compositions, all available via the RA website or Smartify.

Exhibition is open from 22 September and runs until 2 January 2022. Tickets are £20-£22 with concessions available. All details are available on the website.

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