RA Summer Exhibition: Boy, You Playin'

Boy, You Playin'

This one’s a little bit fact-y-but-fun bit of commentary and just a little something something short and snappy to bring you up to speed with the lovely goings on at the RA summer exhibition. Seeing as it is their 250th birthday an all. Yeah guys, the RA was literally around before the Nokia 3310. 


Those of you that have been living in a cultural void, the RA summer exhibition is a bfd. It’s a large (open call) show held at the Royal Academy once a year. The show has actually been held since 1769 (older than your mum, probably) and used to show a whole load of paintings from 1. members of the RA, 2. established (non-member) artists and 3. work from the “unknowns”. It’s always sort of had this history behind it which is why so many people have formed an opinion on it. Grayson Perry (the coordinator this year) has gone seriously funky, but of course he would. Is there any other way with GP? Last year the show was just a bit FULL and BELOW AVERAGE because: same old same old. Alistair Sooke (art critic) even mouthed loudly that it was like a dreadful art jumble sale – “hung with the usual motley abandon”. Ouch.


As you walk up to the beast-of-an-entrance, there is a large red dot in the way. Anish Kapoor has managed to construct this large thing and obviously titled it something pretentious: ’Symphony for a beloved daughter’ or something. If you don’t know Kapoor, he’s the kinda guy that finds a really cool colour (Vantablack: the blackest of blacks) and then goes and wins the exclusive rights to it so only he can use it, totally monopolising a material for his street cred. 

Once we’re past this arrogant spot, we step into the main galleries. Immediately, GP’s presence is felt. For those of you that don’t know him so well, let me tell you a few of my favourite facts. 


1. He is a total babe and such a laugh. I fell in love when I came across his tapestries. Immediately I was like, YEP - this is the one for me. They’re sketches transformed into Photoshop and then woven onto computer controlled loom. There’s something alluring about seeing an iPhone screen and a cat stretching and an old union-jack cushion together on the same tapestry and I still just can’t get over. 

2. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003. 


3. He’s a cultural icon. He was ranked 32nd in the Telegraph’s ‘100 Most Powerful People in British Culture’ in 2008 so of course it’s true. 

4. Fresh out of art school he squatted for a brief period (after being kicked out of his Dad’s house for wearing dresses) and ended up sharing a house with Boy George and Stephen Jones. 


5. GP enjoys mountain biker and motorcyclist. Gonna leave that one there for you.

6. Perry has an alter-ego ‘Claire’ who dresses up and goes to allllllll the parties. 

7. Every year there is a competition for Central Saint Martin’s fashion students to design a new dress for Claire. 

8. ‘All Man’ is one of my favourite documentaries where GP follows around groups of extremely MALE men being MASCULINE whilst questioning the contemporary view on masculinity. Literally interviewing cage fighters/traders/hedge-fund managers etc., and he’s just like - but why though??!


SO ANYWAY, as COORDINATOR of this whole shebang, Perry was able to do whatever he liked. He is clearly messing about with hierarchy and tradition and he knows it, even persuades us that it needs to be done. You know he has even said that on the opening night he wanted to wear a badge that just said ‘ZERO FUCKS’.  ‘Colour and fun, colour and fun. I’m trying to get everything to zing off each other.’ That’s exactly what it does and there’s a lot in there. There’s even a Banksy.  

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‘I entered an early version of this into the RA summer exhibition under the pseudonym Bryan S Gaakman - an anagram of 'banksy anagram'. It was refused. Then a month later I got a mail from the co-ordinator Grayson Perry asking me to submit something so I sent it again. It’s now hanging in gallery 3.’ 


Banksy has set the price at £350mil. Rumour has it that he’ll give that to the NHS if it sells, because good old Leave Campaign promised that exact amount and the NHS still haven’t got it. 

Anyway, this year’s Summer Exhibition is significant as it falls in the Royal Academy’s 250th birthday year (serious party emoji). There has been a lot of celebration. So go and join in, and let me know what you think. It’s on until 19th August. Go. Now.