When David Remfry was offered a few days to think about whether he wanted to accept the offer to co-ordinate this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, he told Rebecca Salter (the current President of the Royal Academy) this was unnecessary as he would absolutely love to. And now, as the annual extravaganza is nearing its close, he is no less enthusiastic. He describes his choice of selection committee and curators as “most harmonious”, noting that it was unprecedented for there to be no arguments during the hang – some to-ing and fro-ing, and a bit of “people nick[ing] pictures from other people”, yes, but all in good spirit.
Richard Malone’s installation in the Wohl Central Hall, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2023. Photo: Martin Kennedy.
Everything about the 254th open-submission fixture is, in fact, “harmonious”, from the process of selection – Remfry emphasises how inclusive and all-embracing he wanted it to be – to the choice of wall colours, which he deliberately kept muted, unlike in recent years.
Sculpture by The Late Amal Gosh, A Bridge Beyond, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2023. Photo: Martin Kennedy.
With more than 16,500 applications, Remfry calculated that to give every entry a minute’s consideration during the selection process, it would require 37 hours in total, which is simply not possible. Instead, each work receives but a few seconds. He firmly believes there are no barriers to inclusion, however, and his top tips to anyone wishing to try their luck: (1) Do not choose ornate frames; (2) Do not choose excessively wide borders; and (3) Make your photographs really good.
Works by Ken Howard RA (1932–2022), Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2023. Photo: Martin Kennedy.
While one room, curated by Remfry, is a memorial to Academicians who have died this past year – including Paula Rego, Fred Cuming, Ken Howard and Tom Phillips –, the inclusion of three paintings each by centenarian Academicians Tony Eyton (100) and Diana Armfield (103) suggest, Remfry says with a laugh, that painting is good for you. There are humorous threads running through the selection, as well, including, for example, a number of toilet-related works in Clare Woods’ room of still lifes.
Top centre: James Lloyd, Toilet Rolls, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2023. Photo: Martin Kennedy.
Remfry takes Studio International on a walk-through of the exhibition, pointing out some of his many favourite works and elucidating the behind-the-scenes process on the way.
Royal Academy of Arts, London
13 June – 20 August 2023
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed and edited by MARTIN KENNEDY
David Remfry, Indoor Cosmology, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2023. Photo: Martin Kennedy.
Caravaggio: The Genius of Rome
It might seem churlish to criticise an exhibition which has been dedicated to the late Francis Haskell, on grounds of scholarship, but 'The Genius of Rome', in the urgent and populist surge to inform us of Caravaggio in all his works, drops a number of 'clangers', in the detail of which Haskell would have been less than impressed, given his own great scholarship in the period, which the exhibition seeks to portray
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2004
This year's innovative Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, London was selected and organised by Allen Jones and David Hockney. It celebrated the art of drawing as part of the creative process and the results are both fascinating and varied.
Matisse, His Art and His Textiles. The Fabric of Dreams
The premise of 'Matisse, His Art and His Textiles' is that textiles were 'the key to (Matisse's) visual imagination'. Hilary Spurling has recently published the second volume of her scholarly and impressive biography of Matisse, which inspired this current exhibition.
The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2007
The Royal Academy in summertime is a national institution. As well as the Summer Exhibition this year, there is Impressionists by the Sea, an exhibition of 70 paintings produced at the end of the nineteenth century in France, which charts the economic and social developments in France that brought about the transformation of the seaside. The exhibition will travel to America this autumn.