Living in London

Ye Old Art Salon

Culture beckons us on. So it was that we were called to the Royal Academy of Arts to view the Summer exhibition. Not just any exhibition however, but an old school “Salon” style display of a vast array of artwork, all placed side by side, up and down the ancient walls (floor included) of the Royal Academy of Arts building.

The upper floor has been installed in the manner of an old time salon, akin to 19th century Paris. Room after room after room, art is revealed. Not only to be admired however, all this work is for sale, purchasable for those with deep enough pockets. The ethos of this exhibition is that anyone can submit work, which is then judged by a jury and choices for inclusions are made. This makes for a democratic showcase (though one believes that nepotism must still hover over choices, this is the art world after all). Artists such as Damien Hirst, Quentin Blake and RB Kitaj lay next to relative unknown artists. Each piece is labelled simply with a number, which mandates the viewer locate the work within the guidebook that is given with paid admission. A wonderful idea, the work must stand on its’ own merits, not on the noble legs of its revered creator(s).

Hunt and peck, see a work, admire it, see who has created it, and see how much it costs. It staggers the mind that some of the most awful work is the most expensive, while some of the more unique, charming pieces are quite affordable. In my wanderings I found work ranging from $105,000 to a mere $150 and the gamete runs right between. There were things I would have gladly handed money over for, had I had some to spare, though the $105,000 piece, entitled “Skull” which was enormous in both price and dimensions, seemed to defy logic, unable to justify its price. Made of coal and acrylic rather than blood, sweat and tears, the lack of bodily fluids as art material meant that the price seemed over inflated.

Each room is curated and themed by one individual, with sculpture, conventional oil paintings, prints, architecture and “the extreme” all being represented. The most comical, un-intentionally, is the extreme room. Curated by Tracy Emin, the goal seems to be to shock the viewer. However, shocking doesn’t get any more conventional then a sculpture composed of 25 dildos formed into the shape of a head, or a video loop of a naked woman’s torso gyrating with a barbed hula hoop. So un-shocking is this room that as I stood trying to grasp the room as a whole, two elderly women stood behind me discussing the penis sculpture with as much outrage as they would discuss a vase full of dandelions.

The show is well put together though, and really gives the viewer a window into the current state of “modern” art. Sadly it seems that modernity has been stuck in place for quite some time. Work was good but as to be expected. Perhaps the lack of innovation will push the wheels of change in motion and set the art world on course for a new movement. There are enough penis sculptures out there to last an eternity, a little taste with the extreme for a change?

Ye Old Art Salon

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