Summer Exhibition, 2000
To the dinner were bid Michael Portillo, Bruce Oldfield, Nicole Farhi. Under the enlightened presidency of the Sculptor, Phillip King, and accompanied in the hanging committee by Anthony Green and Peter Blake (the latter will be senior hanger in 2001) the talents that for many have graced the Summer Exhibition - such as Eduardo Paolozzi, Allen Jones, and Blake himself, continue to show beside new or unknown artists in a mutual accessibility, before an enthusiastic public.
This is understandably still anathema to those artists of distinction today who long ago chose to stay outside (such as Ben Nicolson and Henry Moore in their time, Bridget Rile, Leon Kossoff, Lucien Freud, and even Anthony Caro - who still got an invitation.) There is however no lack of commitment at the Royal Academy to the future, pace, the Academicians. Future Summer Shows are expected to evolve a new formula, a different process of selection.
The present 'lottery-like' free-for-all brings with it enormous administration problems for the short-staffed Royal Academy. The fact that it is the Academicians who select does not alleviate, but rather aggravates what might otherwise be a relatively organised curatorial process. This year, some 9,000 works were submitted, of which about 1,200 were actually hung. This remains an amazing, idiosyncratic, and splendidly unbureaucratic, even radical way, to insist on. And yet, in its essentially British pattern, it has something in common too with Crufts Dog Show, say: or the Chelsea Flower Show; en masse to apply an obsequiousness of curatorial efficiency over detail and category: or else to go over to an acquiescent omnivalence designed to suit all tastes. Or something completely different. Or more or less of the same. We await developments.
This year there remain memorable highlights; with a sculptor of major international distinction such as Phillip King, as President of the Royal Academy, sculptors stand strong: David Nash's Pyramid Square cube is noteworthy. There is a superb Proktor painting entitled "Hove": this is redolent of his 1970s Venice seascapes, and as seductive. Paolozzi and Blake allow in the American Frank Stella, whose Die Marquise von O. dominates its allotted space. But then, if you are an invited guest, so you may.
There is good reason this month in London to revisit Cranach. Last year saw the Courtauld Institute steal a march: this is all the more notable because before these two exhibitions there had never been a Cranach show here.
The John Bellany Odyssey - paintings from Italy, China and the Tsunami
John Bellany's paintings are among the most confrontational, humanistic paintings produced in Britain in recent history. Layered with references to the expressionist tradition in art, and to his own dramatic life, recent death and incredible survival, they are allegories of mortality that have no rival today.
Royal Academicians in China, 2003-2005
'Royal Academicians in China, 2003-2005' was conceived to coincide with the Royal Academy's remarkable exhibition, 'China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795', which presents imperial treasures of the Qing Dynasty. The superb exhibition draws on the collections of the Palace Museum, Beijing, and focuses on the artistic riches of China's last three emperors. It is a spectacular exhibition, and a great credit to the Royal Academy for their organisation of it, and to the team of scholars and curators involved.
China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795
China: The Three Emperors, 1662-1795, Royal Academy of Arts,12 November 2005-17 April 2006. Paintings, dress, porcelains, lacquers and furnishings that the rulers themselves employed in elaborate performances.