Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – reviews

Jun 18, 2014

The quintessentially British Summer Exhibition is 'pleasantly chaotic' with something for everyone

Benedict Johnson

What you need to know

The 246th Summer Exhibition has opened at the Royal Academy, London. The world's largest annual open entry exhibition showcases a range of well-known and emerging visual artists, designers and architects.

This year's show has over 1,200 works, and features a "black and white room" curated by Cornelia Parker, and work by new Royal Academy members including Yinka Shonibare, Bob and Roberta Smith and designer Thomas Heatherwick. Runs until 17 August.

What the critics like

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, "is as quintessentially part of the British summer as Wimbledon and Ascot", says Ben Luke in the Evening Standard.

This year, work by new RA members and additions such as Parker's cool, coherent black and white room breathe new life into the old format.

"One of the Summer Exhibition's great strengths is its range and catholicity," says Andrew Lambirth in The Spectator. This year's range of work is still reassuringly wide, from Flora McLachlan's charming etching of a rural ride, to Gillian Ayres big vivid abstract woodcuts and James Turrell's hypnotic light work, there's something for everyone.

There is "the pleasantly chaotic sense of wandering through a highbrow junk shop, or the private palace of a wealthy and eccentric hoarder", says Zoe Pilger in The Independent. Parker's black and white gallery is by far the most thoughtful, making a coherent aesthetic out of disparate artists' works, while making a powerful political point.

What they don't like

"Ultimately your response to this exhibition will be determined less by your tastes in art than your energy level," says Mark Hudson in the Daily Telegraph. It takes considerable energy getting through the 1,200 wildly different artworks, but the only thing for it is to go back for another look.

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