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  • Writer's pictureSegolene Py

Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, the 253rd Edition

This year for the 253rd edition, the Summer Exhibition, the Royal Academy has been coordinated by the great Yinka Shonibare OBE. This show, 'Reclaiming Magic', gathers wide range of contemporary art style and techniques: #painting , #print , #photography, #sculpture and #video . More than 1,380 works are spread across 13 different rooms and curated by different art actors such as Yinka Shonibare himself, David Adjaye, Tony Bevan, Vanessa Jackson, Mali Morris, or Emma Stibbon. For those who are not familiar with the concept, the Summer Exhibition at the RA is the world oldest open-submission exhibition, retracing its steps from 1769. It allows artists, famous or not, to exhibit their work at the Royal Academy usually for the summer but these last 2 years the event happened during autumn/winter.

I was so please to see artists I know such as Alexis Peskine, Abe Odedina, Ibrahim Mahama, Faith Ringgold or Eddy Kamuanga. But also Wilfrid Wood who I discovered in his show at the Copeland Gallery in #Peckham earlier this year. I also discover amazing artists like Bill Traylor, an American artists born into slavery and started practicing in his 80s ; Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien, from Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers, with her beautiful textile work decorated with little african masks ; Stephen Cox RA with his incredilble wooden sculpture fractured into 4 parts giving a diving view on a landscape; Guler Ates' photography with his mysterious veiled figure in the middle of the room; and many others.

Although you tend to miss some gems in the incredibly enormous crowd of artworks on the walls, this year has brought some exciting and surprising artists. I did not expect to see some of them there such as Davidi Adjaye's architecture room, celebrating contemporary art and architecture, with a soundscape by his brother Peter Adjaye which I had the pleasure to discover at the Toyin Ojih Odutola exhibtion at the Barbican.

I had the amazing surprise to see one of John Akomfrah's films which are always very emotional. Peripetia, 2012, retraces the steps and story of a Black man and woman wandering in a beautiful moorland landscape, gazing into the void. The sounds, visuals and characters all work in perfect union. Akomfrah take his inspiration from two drawing by Albrecht Durer from a collection entitled 'The Image of the Black in Western Art'. The video works as a peek into internal life, a dive into human suffering. Akomfrah shows how the past and the memory shapes the present day. (reference:

Accompanying this exhibition is an online music and poems reading on the smartify app for example Peter Adjaye music, poems/meditation and music by the collective Obsidian Meditation composed by yan Ifekoya & Kiera Coward-Deyell, or a poem by Linton Kwesi Johnson. Find it available on the link below:

This year Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is surely a show not to miss, full of surprises!

Royal Academy of Arts

Burlington House,

Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD


Summer Exhibition

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