Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Whatever one's opinion about Damien Hirst's work, he is certainly adroit in his career choices and ability to leverage any context to his advantage.

Consider the above massive sculpture - entitled The Virgin Mother - currently residing in the forecourt of the Royal Academy as part of its Summer Exhibition. (I love my little mobile pic - it captures the threatening gleam wonderfully. Better, fantastic photos of this sculpture can be found here and here.)

The huge size of the piece means that this was the only possible location for it in the show. Outside, on its own, separated from the ghastly rubbish in the galleries. This piece will be the first and last thing people attending the show will see; also everyone passing down Piccadilly will see it too, without even having to pay money to get inside.

So, Hirst gets all the kudos of appearing in a RA show, without actually having to associate his work directly with the numbed-down crud within. And the RA gets a massive, name artist with a significant piece to raise their creative profile.

The bargain gets more and more strained every year. I walked the galleries desperately imagining ways to improve this show; of course, that's not the point at all - it's degenerated into an unholy mix of Academy ego massage and commercial exploitation: as a significant part of the London Season it rakes in huge amounts of dosh every year. Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner and Constable must be quietly screaming in their graves.

So, if you are an Ordinary Joe artist, here's how to play the game and make some money:

1) Forget painting - a numbered print edition (say up to 200) priced between £150 and £250 will do the trick

2) Relatively small size - needs to hang on a domestic English wall

3) Three subjects - Pedigree dogs (or cute puppies); cats and kittens; and whimsical views of suburban London (umbrellas on Primrose Hill, etc etc etc)


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