Thoughts on the RA Summer Show.

I visited the RA Summer Show in London today. My first impressions were that painting is definitely back. The RA show went through a period when painting didn’t get much of a look in and conceptual work was rife, with form over substance playing a rather negative part. Some rooms were hung well this year and that was reflected in the number of works sold; whilst others were grouped with so much variety that it was hard to tell the wood for the trees, infact in some of these there was a distinct lack of timber. Prints were selling very well, even with some high prices being evident, and most of the more ‘painterly’ prints were popular. It may be a submission I will consider for next year. Clean colours, bold use of materials and expressive, semi-abstract, or pure abstract, work was much in evidence and popular with the public. Not all the work on show was what I would call ‘high quality’ which makes me wonder about the credentials of the judging panel:but to give them credit a lot was. What struck me was that the big guns were very much in evidence this year, Sean Scully, Julian Opie, Anthony Caro, Alan Davie, Tracey Emin , Jim Dine, Daniel Craig Martin, Gillian Ayres, etc. etc. What also struck me that these pillars of the art world were using the show as a way to make a big bid for the most prestigious and desirable work in the show by using their often over-justified Hype to rip off and entrap the rich and famous. ( for you a piece of art for us a financial investment). I heard from an unnamed source that Tracey got her well travelled knickers in a twist, and objected to her prints selling in multiples to single buyers. The profits on EBay could be a motive for these fair-weather art lovers? and I believe that she has,just recently, asked the RA to restrict sales to five maximum per purchaser. This for me takes the biscuit. An artist profits from selling work, enjoys a worldwide profile via the media,(the RA is promoting her / him). With all those creature comforts that fame provides, well beyond the meagre aspirations of the struggling masses, how can artists object to a budding entrapment by a new age of the sophisticated ‘Romford Ronnie’ getting in on the act. Art makes money and the artist makes a living because of that. The irony was not lost on the very brilliant Cornelia Parker, who gave the art market what it wanted with a Duchampian empty mount. When Julian Opie is charging £42.000 for an inkjet print on Canvas it makes you wonder about the integrity of art and if it or habitually ever been safe in the hands of the connected few ? I ask the question: What is Art for? It remains to be seen that the most prestigious showing of current practice in the visual arts in the UK is genuinely interested in promoting new talent rather than cementing the reputations of the privileged few. Did you see the show and what do you think?


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