Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016

June 19, 2016

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.


A BLOCKBUSTER DATE NIGHT IN MAYFAIR THAT STARTED AT 

Call me the Alexander Petrovsky of date night. And before any of you shake your fists at me with cries of Team Aidan! or Team Big! (Team Berger? No? Darn right, he was a real wet towel), hear this Sex And The City-binge-watching-sister out. So maybe I'm neither composing 'Ick!'-inducing love songs on my grand piano* nor waltzing in couture** at the local Maccy D's, but if you want me to show you a good time you gotta get your art on (and get to grips with chopsticks - you'll see why in a bit). And as far as London art exhibitions go, it doesn't get bigger than the annual Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Every year, this world-class institution of art hosts its legendary open-submission summer show, with an eye-watering exhibit of over a thousand works within the Palladian-mansion walls of Burlington House. Because either you go big or you go home. Jack Berger, I'm talking to you...
#RASUMMER

 *but I did compose a painting for my intended...
**although I was wearing Valentino, does that count?


A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.

Greeting you in the Central Hall at the start of this year's Summer Exhibition is a neon piece by Tim Noble & Sue Webster, FOREVER (YELLOW) - yours for a cool £135,000. Sculpture, photography, and paintings jostle for position in this vast collection of work from both established and up-and-coming artists. A first time exhibitor at the Summer Exhibition is certain to find themselves beside the likes of Anish Kapoor or Grayson Perry. In a well-intended move, the Royal Academy doesn't label the exhibited works with the artists' names so as not to let 'branding' get in the way of appreciating the work for what it is - you have to look up the number beside a piece and reference it against what they call 'the Bible', a pocket-sized book listing the who, what, and how much. Of course, certain artists' works are so distinctive that they're instantly recognisable, like this year's massive contribution from Gilbert & George. Marina Abramovic and Zaha Hadid also put in an appearance at this year's show.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.
A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.
Yinka Shonibare BALLOON MAN

OH ART, YOU SO FUNNY 
God, the art world cracks me up. This behind the scenes anecdote takes the cake - during the selection process, the panel went crazy for a sculpture: this slab of stone with a stained best described as though 'something had died on it'. Naturally, the sculpture made the cut for that year's Summer Exhibition. Then the artist showed up, took a look at the slab and said..."Where's the rest of it?!" Turns out, the slab was only the plinth that the work was standing on. The actual piece had broken off during sorting. Hilariously, the actual sculpture itself was judged separately...and rejected. Yet the grubby stained plinth it broke off from ended up being exhibited. If that story isn't the epitome of the ridiculousness of contemporary art, I don't know what is.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the madness behind the magic. There's the mysterious 'beef tea' the RA Summer Exhibition committee drink during the eight-day hanging of the work and the tradition of 'Varnishing Day' - a steel band procession down Piccadilly to St. James’s church where the exhibiting artists are blessed.

Further reading:
NINE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE SUMMER EXHIBITION - The Royal Academy of Arts blog



Larger than life: A carbon fibre sculpture by Heather and Ivan Morison Fabric 'WILL YOU PLEASE BE QUIET, PLEASE' looms over the Sipsmith gin bar in Gallery III, and below, Gilbert & George's BEARD AWARE spans an entire wall in Gallery II.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.

I was especially drawn to Doug Aitken I THINK ONE DAY I’LL SLIP AWAY for its quiet serenity and the implied solitude in travel.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.

I was lucky enough to catch the Royal Academy choir perform a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Moon River on the grand staircase (my date said it was the best choir cover he'd heard). Originally, the choir had planned to sing outside in the courtyard but typically unpredictable British weather had moved them inside, only for the sun to come out again once the singing started. I thought it was serendipitous - the acoustics of Burlington House and the intimacy of the Royal Academy lent the performance a certain coziness.


I must say I found this year's offerings at the Summer Exhibition not as exciting as previous years' shows. I usually find myself wanting to buy at least a dozen pieces, but this year there were only four works that grabbed me: Doug Aitken I THINK ONE DAY I’LL SLIP AWAY, Pierre et Gilles MARIE ANTOINETTE, THE QUEEN'S HAMLET (a portrait of controversial la scandaleuse Zahia Dehar), Guler Ates WING OF YELLOW, and The Singh Twins LONDON'S BURNING: READ ALL ABOUT IT. That said, with over 1,200 works on show there is bound to be something for everyone. I attended the show as press, but the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is free to the public so there really isn't any excuse to head down to Burlington House for what is one of the world's biggest contemporary art events.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.

A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.
A date in Mayfair, London: The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Blogger's Evening, dinner and drinks at The Wolseley and Sake No Hana.
After our visit to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (but not before my date was accosted in the courtyard by a 'very angry woman' who had a lot to say about the show and decided that a complete stranger would be interested in her strong opinions) we crossed the street to The Wolseley for cocktails then down St James's Street for dinner at Sake No Hana. The sakura menu at Sake No Hana may have gone but the sashimi and sushi is ever outstanding, one of the best in London. The Wolseley is practically a London institution, not just for afternoon tea and breakfast but also good for an aperitif. Both Sake No Hana and The Wolseley are literally footsteps away from the Royal Academy, so all three make the perfect destinations for she who doesn't want to ruin her brand new Rockstuds (ahem). Go on, make it a Mayfair date...

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