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The spectacular range of art on show in this year’s Summer Exhibition is the perfect crash course for anyone looking to delve into the world of contemporary art.

Summer Exhibition 2014 - Royal Academy of Arts
Summer Exhibition 2014 – Royal Academy of Arts

What I love most about the Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts and what makes it so unique is it allows entrants from professionals and amateurs alike. In fact it’s the largest open entry exhibition in the world. What you end up with is a huge melting pot of varying styles, techniques and finishes.

Contemporary art can be difficult to sum up at the best of times. Contemporary art has accelerated even in just the last decade as new ideas and experiments collide to create something new and fresh.

The Lecture Room was by far the strongest room at the Summer Exhibition. Curated by Cornelia Parker, the theme black and white was brilliantly portrayed through a number of understated yet powerful works. Simplicity was key here, much like the colour palette.

This idea was exemplified by the art pieces which only displayed words. Martin Creed’s neon which simply said ‘ASSHOLES’ (for sale at £53,036) couldn’t be missed and seemed to draw a smile from everyone who saw it. Jeremy Deller’s board suggested ‘More Poetry Is Needed’ while Bob and Roberta Smith’s stated In 2013 14% Less Children Chose Art At GCSE Than Did In 2010. But it was Bob and Roberta’s Letter To Michael Gove which stole the show.

Letter To Michael Gove - Bob and Roberta Smith - Summer Exhibition 2014 - Royal Academy of Arts
Letter To Michael Gove – Bob and Roberta Smith – Summer Exhibition 2014 – Royal Academy of Arts

As far as I could see, people stood for a good few minutes (including myself) and read every single word, with some even nodding their head throughout. It’s magnificently simple, black words on a white background. But anything else would detract from the power of those words. The capital letters used from start to finish make it seem like a rant – a very long one at that. The handful of mistakes here and there add to the passionate plea which makes the piece seemed rushed in order to get everything off their chest at once.

Summer Exhibition 2014: Cornelia Parker RA from Royal Academy of Arts on Vimeo.

It’s maybe unfortunate that the Lecture Room was the first I entered so everything seemed to pale into significance and disappoint from there on. But that’s testament to Cornelia Parker, her strong selection and how high the standard was set. With this in mind I recommend starting from the left as you enter The Wohl Central Hall.

With an exhibition of this size, presentation is always going to be tough. The rooms are categorised by (loose) themes chosen by the curators. Most feel disjointed, almost as if they didn’t know where to put a piece of work. None more so than the Small Weston Room which features no fewer than 236 works due to the small size of the pieces. The sheer number of pieces felt like that drawer everyone has where miscellaneous objects get thrown into. The small room and the number of people at any given time made it difficult to fully appreciate anything on show.

But maybe I’m being too harsh. For the amount of art you get to see, £12 is brilliant value for your money. And because there are so many works of art on display, you’re guaranteed to like a few in each room.

The Summer Exhibition 2014 is on display at the Royal Academy of Arts until the 17th August. Open till late on Friday till 10pm, enjoy a free guided tour of the exhibition at 7pm.

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