Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Exhibitionists

Today, we did something I don’t ever recall doing before: we took a trip to London clad only in light, summer outfits. During an average year, you can count on one hand the number of times the weather is comfortable and stable enough to leave the flat without first suiting up in fleeces or jackets or coats or scarves or hats or gloves or a combination thereof. Today, however, marks the beginning of a second week of what I call “almost summer” weather (because it isn’t yet in the 90s with 87% humidity like it gets back in my old home town), and it is simply wonderful.

We, therefore, seized the opportunity to go—sans jackets—to London, to see the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. This exhibition has been staged annually since 1768, allowing anyone to submit a piece of artwork for possible inclusion. And many do. A rotating panel of Royal Academicians (all practicing artists or architects) shift through the thousands upon thousands of entries to winnow out a “short list” of five thousand and, finally, decide on the 1,200 or so that are put on display.

Because of the broad scope of entries, it is an eclectic and all-inclusive exhibit and anyone willing to cough up the ten quid entrance fee is bound to find something to their liking. And, of course, much to be bemused about.

The works are almost all for sale and, although the prices range from a low £65 to a breathtaking £450,000, the vast majority can be hung on your parlor wall for a mere £2,000 to £20,000.

In case you are interested in bulking out your art collection, here are highlights of some of the more notable works:

Several fetching pieces rendered in the medium of “archival inkjet,” meaning, one must assume, that they were run off of an Epson printer. I expect you are all thinking, as indeed was I, that anyone could do that. And you could, but I doubt you’d be able to charge £500 for the results. (Other unconventional media used by artists included mattress ticking, yarn, plastic soda bottles, something called “sugar-lift” and rusty nails in concrete.)

One very interesting picture, rendered in the rather pedestrian medium of oil on canvas, featured a blank square surrounded by a larger blank square.

This isn't the real one; I made this, as no doubt could you.
It would save you some money.

It looked something like this. Interested? It was only £1,000

A Rorschach-type inkblot caught my eye because it looked vaguely like a pornographic drawing. I then discovered the name of the work was—oddly enough—Pornographic Drawing, and that the ink to render it was made from chopped up pornographic tapes. It can be yours for a mere £12,000.

Viewing the works is an inspiration to budding artists. I know this because I recently took up watercolor painting (you’ll be hearing more about that in the future, no doubt) and, as an exercise, I created a chart of my pallet and the various color-combinations thereof. This chart looked startlingly similar to a £7,000 painting hanging in the Royal Academy.

This is my reference chart; but it could also be a work of art.

Does this mean I have a career as an artist ahead of me?

In addition to this, there was a very large work consisting of several abstract areas of primary colors with a price tag of £168,000, a portrait that, if I had painted it, would have ended up in the rubbish bin as a tragically failed attempt, a crucifix covered in bees and a sculpture by a famous British artist that could only be described as a tiny lump of metal selling for £1,800. It all got to be a bit much, but when I proposed sitting down on the art-deco bench in the middle of the room I discovered it was actually another work of art selling for nearly half a million pounds.

I hasten to add that most of these works—as well as many, many others—have already been sold, so I am not insinuating that they are bad art (or at least unprofitable art), they are merely art that I personally wouldn’t have in my house, which is—as noted earlier—one of the great things about the Summer Exhibition: the avant-garde, as well as the traditionalist, are bound to find something to appeal.

And if you happen to have a couple thousand quid burning a hole in your pocket, you can take some of it home with you.

One work of art looked remarkably like this: it was
going for £1,500 but I’ll sell you this one for £250.


  1. I would have called it "Square squared"... Being able to shoot off my mouth...priceless.

    1. It was actually called "Background" which I suppose is fairly appropriate.

  2. Money for old rope, as they say.

    1. Oooooh, great idea! A piece of old rope should fetch about £9,000!