Thursday, 24 June 2010

2010 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Those readers of mine who have valiantly read my pointless ramblings over the past 18 months or so and can remember as far back as this time last year, might recall that mid-June is the time for the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London.  This is an exhibition that has been held every single year, without fail, since 1769 and anyone can submit work for judgment by the committee.  Only about 1000 items out of around 10,000 submissions make it through.

I first started going about 4 years ago now, I think.  The first time I went I was very taken with a print called 'Orange Tom' by Daniel Wallis and then I bought a few other things over subsequent years - there are pictures on last year's blog posting or this one about this.

So, this year's Buyer's Day hoved into view on Thursday 10 June 2010.  I know I've been a bit tardy with doing this year's blog post about it but, well, I've been somewhat busy doing other stuff that I'm not about to bore you with, and have only just round to it.  It would have probably been even later if the very fragrant Ms Katyboo hadn't gone the other day and has already posted about it!

The last 2 times we went to Buyer's Day we decided to go early and get there in time for the doors to open but the downside is everyone else has the same idea and the place is ALWAYS rammed with people. Plus the RA has uneven air conditioning, so it's a hot, sweaty crush, you can't get close enough to see anything, the sweat starts running down your back to pool in your knickers making things very uncomfortable.  TLH doesn't care for the crush either and waits for me in slightly emptier galleries which means we don't look at the same pictures at the same time and are constantly saying 'did you see the picture of the [whatever]?' and having to fight with pointed elbows out through the crowd to have another look.  Added to that the fact that the train fare from Farncombe to Waterloo at that time in the morning is eye-bleedingly expensive (if I recall it cost us almost £60 last year just to get the bloody train!!!), this year we thought we'd do it differently.  Go up late morning, take in a leisurely lunch, have a quick potter round the British Museum to see the Renaissance Drawings exhibition, then stroll on over to the Royal Academy about mid-afternoon.  Wander about there for an hour or so, then head off home hopefully before rush hour.

Everything went according to plan.  Got the 11am train or thereabouts which turned out to be only slightly less eye-bleeding than going earlier.  Oh well.  We couldn't decide where to go for lunch.  It's ridiculous, really, you'd think (if you listened to us) that there were only about 5 places to eat in the whole of central London and we'd been to them all.  We've recently been to Wahaca twice so I didn't fancy that this time.  We've done Wagamama's to death over the years so didn't fancy that.  We've been to Bodean's a few times too so didn't fancy that.  I was tempted by the thought of the non-dog side of Korean cuisine but not knowing where any good ones are meant we weren't brave enough to try.  Ditto Japanese or Thai although you can't really go too wrong with Thai.  Didn't fancy curry.  We thought about Yauatcha but it was a bit out of our budget.

In the end we settled on good old reliable Kettner's.  We've been here several times over the years and I've always really quite liked it - the menu was always a bit like a glorified Pizza Express but served in a tart's boudoir with added champagne bar.  We trotted along there, getting there at about 12.30pm.  The place was deserted apart from one table of four and the staff!  It's also had a makeover which I didn't like very much.  It looks like someone got in a job load of garden tables for some outside Mediterranean trattoria - cold grey marble - and some white chairs.  It has lost its atmosphere, which was a shame.  And they'd revamped the menu and taken all the reliable stuff off - the pizzas and pastas - and gone more 'modern'.  There was only one thing on it out of the half a dozen main courses they now offer and that was a burger which, frankly, I could have gone to Burger King for.  It was nice enough but no great shakes. Kind of explains why the place was so empty:

See how empty Kettners was, on a Thursday lunchtime.

Still, we had some wine and sat watching a colossal twat in a leather trilby and suit with stitching hanging off it parading around outside the Coach and Horses in Romilly Street, making sure everyone saw him, so we got some entertainment out of it all. Sadly we didn't take a photo of him.  Still, good to know there are still Grade A preening cockmonkeys about - the world would be a much less interesting place without them.

We got out of there at, I dunno, about 1.30-ish and made our way to the British Museum.  As I'm a Friend of the BM, I get free entrance for two people to all their paying exhibitions - they're usually pretty good and worth seeing.  The current one is called Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings for which the Uffizi has lent some exhibits. I couldn't take photos in this particular exhibition, but there were some very beautiful scribblings indeed.  We then had a quick look at the Treasures from Medieval York exhibition that's also running which had some very desirable things - I did take some pics of these (by the way, all the photos in this post are taken on my iPhone, for reasons I shall explain later):

Reconstructed Anglo Saxon helmet

Carvings from a cathedral or church or summat.  Sorry, forgot to check, I just liked the lighting!

Then it was time to head over to the Royal Academy.  Every year they use the entrance courtyard to show really big pieces of sculpture.  My favourite ones in recent years were the Chapman Brothers' huge rusty metal dinosaurs in 2007:

Can't remember what there was last year so I obviously wasn't impressed.  Just some big shapes, I think.  I quite liked this year's ones though - big sinuous metal Hares (apologies for picture quality):

As you can see it was a grey and overcast day so the pictures are a bit too dark but hopefully you can still make them out.

We went in, up the stairs, I presented my invitation, we bought a catalogue, and into the Summer Exhibition we went.  I'd already decided I was going to try and sneakily take some photos this year specifically for a blog posting.  With that in mind I left my proper camera at home (as that would be a bit obvious really) and decided I would use the camera on my iPhone, which I actually think is quite good at taking photos plus (and this is the big plus) I could turn off the 'click' noise it made and pretend I was texting or answering a call from someone while trying to take pictures that give the impression of what it's like inside and also of anything that particularly caught my eye.

Let's go then:

These 3 pics above show a bit of the Weston Rooms which is where the smallest (and often most affordable) pictures are crammed in, floor to ceiling. These rooms get the biggest crush of people and it gets very hot in there, so it's not somewhere you want to stay long, which is a great shame because there are literally hundreds of pictures in there.

This is the picture I was most taken with in the little Weston Room, it's an oil painting called 'Headlights near Padbury' by Lance Fennell.  Obviously this picture doesn't do it justice as I was being Mrs Ninja Photographer but I hope it can convey the misty pinky-greyness of it.  Very atmospheric but, sadly, at £600 it'll have to stay atmospheric somewhere else other than in my house.  I'm loathe to describe myself as an artist but I do make jewellery and my own fused glass so I'm aware how much time and effort goes into creating something so, realistically, the price is probably not that much for the work involved but it's still more than I can easily place my hand on just now.  I'll just have to settle for this little photo. The artist has a website and there's a larger picture of it here.  Actually, some of the other pictures on his site are very nice indeed....

Onwards, then, 

In the next room along we spotted this really rather fabulous vase by Ms Katyboo's favourite, Grayson Perry.  I took these pictures especially for her as I know she's so fond of him that she once made Grayson/Claire his very own handbag in the shape of his/her teddy bear, Alan Measles.  And once I'd spotted that the picture on the vase shows Grayson/Claire having just given birth to Alan in the manner of a nativity scene, with various ne'er-do-wells queuing up to see him, I just knew she had to see it.  Even if you don't 'get' Grayson Perry, his workmanship is gorgeous - the painting is well excuted and the glazes used and metallic loveliness achieved make this an incredibly desirable object.  It was not for sale.  Not that I'd have been able to afford it anyway.

Colourful paintings - sometimes you get colour overload from walking around these rooms but this is a good thing. 

See the religious semi-circular painting in the first of these three pictures?  With the street scene below it?  I think these are the pictures by John Bellany RA that the insufferable Brian Sewell slates in his article.  He can't even get the artist's name right.  Admittedly £150,000 is a lot to pay for a diptych but I think he's being a bit harsh to call the street scene 'rubbish'.

A couple of the Norman Ackroyd's on show.  The top one is another view of Tory Island, but I think I prefer my one of the same island that I bought from last year's show.  The one of the rock - 'St Kilda in Sunlight - Stac Lee' is a big picture with the equally large price tag of £650 for a print.

Two general views of the gallery that has the bar in the middle of it.  I don't know if this bar is still there when it's opened to the general public.  As you can see it was quite busy but not oppressively so.

I liked this.  It's by Mark Alexander and it's a 'cover version', if you will, of Van Gogh's sunflowers but done completely in monochrome.  He also showed one either last year or the year before called 'The Blacker Gachet XIII' which was, again, a copy of the Van Gogh portrait of the same name but done completely in black - you had to stand at a certain angle to see the brush marks and then it was obvious what it was.  Very clever but a bit overpowering.  I liked the flowers better, but not enough to mortgage my house to raise the £40,000 that it costs.

This is 'Silver Streak' by David Mach RA.  It's completely made out of coat hangers.  It's sort of very silly but kind of impressive at the same time.  It's huge and also £265,000.  Which is a lot of money to fork out to ensure that you've always got a spare coathanger around.

By now I was getting a bit blase about taking pictures and had forgone employing guerilla photography tactics in order to photograph the gorilla and I got nabbed by security.  They're quite sneaky, the security chappies at the RA, because they don't really wear a uniform so they're not easy to spot.  He came up to me and said, 'You're not allowed to take photos'.  I put on my best contrite face, put my phone down by my side and mumbled something non-descript like 'no, sorry' to which he replied 'Because I saw you'.  I felt like such a naughty child!  And, yes, I know it's an appalling example to set all those millions of people who look to me to set an example in how to behave in civilised society, but it's only because the RA would rather you buy the postcards (or the actual artwork) afterwards.  Who's actually losing out by me taking a few snaps to put up on my blog?  I should charge them for the free advertising!!!

Anyway, I wasn't bothered too much as we were coming to the end and I hadn't taken nearly as many photos as I would've liked.  I waited until he was out of the way and then took one last snap because I've always been a complete sucker for a large oil painting of a grumpy cat in a cowboy hat:

'Cowboy Joe from Mexico' by Angela Lizon (£3,800).  I did buy the postcard of this and now have it framed at home.  It's much better than the £125,000 Tracey Emin graffiti below it.

So that's it for another year.  I didn't buy anything this time round as everything I liked was just too pricey but TLH and I always enjoy going to have a look.  

Hope you've enjoyed this vicarious wander round - same time next year?

 *Errata  - TLH has pointed out to me, after reading this, that the preening cockmonkey wasn't, in fact, wearing a leather trilby, it was a bowler hat.  Which is actually worse.  The headwear had obviously been so comedic and try-hard that I'd attempted to wipe it from my memory but only partially succeeded.  He also informs me that we actually went to the British Museum before going to Kettner's. Being a scientist he demands accuracy in all things.*


Anonymous said...

Brian Sewell is a fucking hero. And Emin is devoid of both charm and talent.

Mrs Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs Jones said...

Well, that's me told then!

Anonymous said...

Did you say something very rude first time?

Martin said...

I share your enthusiasm for the Summer Exhibition and also have some previous in this area.
I went for a Norman Ackroyd last year,and this year a Jeremy Blighton etching that was out of most people's eyeline in the small Weston Room.
The painting I really wanted cost 1,800.00. Dream on.

Anonymous said...

Love this post. Thanks for the pix!

Mrs Jones said...

Martin - ooh, spooky! I spotted the Jeremy Blighton because I bought one of his from the exhibition a couple of years ago - it was of White Horse Hill ( and is, in fact, very similar to the one in this year's show. Regarding price (and I perhaps should have mentioned this in the post itself), if you contact the artist of a particular piece directly and ask to buy it, the price will be less as the RA slaps on quite a large mark-up (I forget exactly how much). An etching I fancied a few years ago ('Little Pig' by Christopher Brown - at the exhibition was priced, I think, at £60 but had sold out by the time we got there. I contacted Christopher directly, saying that I loved it and was there any possibility he had any more of them, which he did and for £45! Result!

Mrs Jones said...

Anon - thanks! I find it's v difficult to talk about an art exhibition without being able to show pictures of what I'm talking about so I thought it was worth the risk of taking some to add to the post. If you've never been to the Summer Exhibition, I would recommend it. Pay no attention to Brian Sewell - make up your own opinion about the things on show.

arosebyanyothername said...

I enjoyed the tour and you were brave to try the wrath of the gallery police. Well done you!

Martin said...

Thanks for the tip! Bit late now,as I've stumped up the necessary in order to secure my purchases(bought a lithograph by Alan Cox as well)
It'll be useful for next year,though..

Rocio said...

I enjoy reading your blog. I wanted to ask you if you had take any pictures in the Large Western room of the 2010 Summer Exhibition, since I was selected with two prints but couldn´t make it to the exhibition to take pictures :(

Thank you!

Mrs Jones said...

Rocio - hello! Unfortunately I didn't. I put all the pictures I took in the post. Strictly speaking you're not allowed to take photos so I couldn't take as many as I would have liked. Sorry. But many congratulations on being selected. As you know the exhibition runs until 22 August - is there no-one you know who can pop in and take some sneaky shots? I've just looked at your Facebook page and I'm sad now that I didn't spot your pictures as they're fab! Maybe you could ask one of your Facebook friends? Good luck!

Anonymous said...


For a random reason I was looking up Orange Tom (I remember being impressed with it at the exhibition too) the other day in order to contact the artist to see if he had any prints left.

I've managed to get in touch with him and he is to get back to me soon to let me know the availabiliy, but I was hoping that you would be able to tell me roughly how much you paid for your copy so that I have a rough idea as what figure to expect to reduce the risk of being charged more than I should.

If you can please either reply here or send me an e-mail at that would be amazing.

Thanks and hope you read this message


Mrs Jones said...

Hi Chris - I've sent you an email.

coates and scarry said...

Hi Mrs Jones, just a note to say that we now have "Cowboy Joe from Mexico' as a signed Limited edtion print at

Mrs Jones said...

Coates and Scarry - Ooh! Fab! I've ordered one this morning!!!