Not a baaa-d way to court a Summer controversy

Story by Jack Foley

THE largest open show of contemporary art in the world, featuring more than 1,000 works by both professional and amateur artists, is now open at the Royal Academy of Arts.

The Summer Show, viewed by many as the last bastion of traditional art, has already attracted thousands of visitors and has courted its fair share of controversy despite only opening last week.

Among this year’s exhibits are a pair of giant stuffed jaguars by Belgian artist Pascal Bernier, as well as a series of provocative female figures in glass fibre by pop artist Allen Jones (one of which features a woman’s stomach opening up as a refrigerated drinks cabinet).

But perhaps the most controversial offering - and the one which has provoked the most debate thus far - is Thomas Grunfeld’s exhibit of a stuffed mutant animal, half sheep (head) and half St Bernard dog (body).

On sale at a mere £18,000, the exhibit has been applauded by some for the way in which it has helped make the Academy more contemporary, but deplored by others as an unwelcome move away from traditional art.

Animal rights groups have also been quick to attack such exhibits, describing them as ‘a corruption of beauty’, while members of the Campaign Against Leather And Fur - who protested against Damien Hirst’s pickled cows at the Tate - have said they intend to stage another protest.

The Academy has defended the exhibit, however, by describing it as a commentary on cloning.

Other highlights at the 234-year-old event include a water-filled dustbin with a mound of sand in its lid and the video art section, which has been allowed for the first time.

This year’s show has also attracted work by younger artists such as Gavin Turk, Rachel Whiteread and Marc Quinn, which was one of the aims of Gallery curator Gary Hume, who last year became one of the youngest British artists to be elected to the Royal Academy at the age of 40.

The Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, WIJ OBD. Registered Charity No. 212798. Tel: 020 7300 8000; Recorded information line: 020 7300 5760/1
Opening hours: Seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm, and until 10pm on Fridays. Last admission to the galleries is 30 minutes before closing. The Summer Exhibition will be closed for the afternoon from 1pm on Monday 24 June 2002. UNTIL AUGUST 19, 2002.


Children and creativity

The Summer Exhibition is a great introduction to gallery going for younger visitors. There’s free admission for the under 9s, including free Activity Trays with crayons and sketchbooks. For 8 to 13-year-olds we have a printed guide called 'Summer Snapshots' which encourages a closer look at works in the show.

Most family events are free, though you will have to book in advance for some of them because of their popularity.

Wednesday, July 17 July - Wednesday, August 14 - Family Gallery Talks
An exploration of the Summer Exhibition for families with children aged 8-13. Each talk lasts about 45 minutes and begins in the first gallery of the exhibition.
Venue: Royal Academy, W1; Time: 12pm; Tickets: Free with an exhibition ticket; Tel: 020 7300 5995

Thursday, July 25 July - Friday, July 26 - Music Workshops
The RA is collaborating with the London Philharmonic Orchestra again to offer music workshops in the Summer Exhibition. In front of chosen paintings or sculptures, visitors will be encouraged to suggest and compose music with the help of musicians.
Venue: Royal Academy, W1; Time: 11am–1pm; Tickets: free with an exhibition ticket; Tel: 020 7300 5995

Thursday, August 1 - Tuesday, August 6 - Family Workshop
Take part in a family workshop in the Summer Exhibition, consisting of an introductory talk and a practical, hands-on session.
Venue: Royal Academy, W1; Time: 11am–1pm; Tickets: booking essential — free with an exhibition ticket; Tel: 020 7300 5995

Free materials - Summer Snapshots
A printed guide-sheet provided free to 8 to 13-year-olds with a ticket, designed to encourage close observation and personal responses by leading a trail around selected works in the Summer Exhibition.

For further information about Family Events please email or telephone 020 7300 5995 or fax 020 7300 5781.

RELATED LINKS: Click here to view the Royal Academy of Arts website...