Be­hind the scenes of the artis­tic show­case

Macclesfield Express - - TVWEEK -

What was founded in 1768, has around a mil­lion and a quar­tet vis­i­tors ev­ery year and orig­i­nally started life at Lon­don’s Foundling Hos­pi­tal? The Royal Academy of Arts – or RA for short – of course. Many peo­ple have de­scribed artists as ec­centrics or, in some cases, slightly mad, so it could be seen as fit­ting that it was King Ge­orge III, who is per­haps now best known for his bat­tles with men­tal ill­ness, who founded the in­sti­tu­tion via a per­sonal act. Its mo­tive was twofold: to raise the pro­fes­sional sta­tus of the artist by es­tab­lish­ing a sound sys­tem of train­ing and ex­pert judge­ment in the arts, and to ar­range the ex­hi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary works of art at­tain­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate stan­dard of ex­cel­lence. Al­most 150 years on, the world has changed dra­mat­i­cally, and in some ways so has the RA, but those core be­liefs and aims are still strong. The first pres­i­dent was the in­flu­en­tial por­trait painter Joshua Reynolds. He was one of 34 named founder mem­bers, al­though it was thought that even­tu­ally, 40 mem­bers would be al­lowed in to­tal. Al­though many of that ini­tial group are now largely un­known, the or­gan­i­sa­tion the helped to mould con­tin­ues to go from strength to strength. The RA was housed in Som­er­set House, which was then a royal palace, then moved to the Na­tional Gallery be­fore tak­ing up res­i­dence in Burling­ton House at Pic­cadilly, where it re­mains to­day. Ev­ery sum­mer it hosts the big­gest art show of the year, and pos­si­bly the most im­por­tant – the wide va­ri­ety of prac­ti­tion­ers (both pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur) and styles on view offer a unique in­sight into the cur­rent artis­tic trends. Each an­nual show is cu­rated by a dif­fer­ent mem­ber of the Royal Academy, with Richard Wil­son (the sculptor not the ac­tor) tak­ing charge in 2016. “The Royal Academy Sum­mer Ex­hi­bi­tion 2016 (Satur­day, BBC2, 9.10pm) will be un­pre­dictable, stim­u­lat­ing, and en­joy­able with 10 star­tling rooms of con­tem­po­rary art sub­mit­ted from around the world. Each of the rooms will be hung by a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, re­sult­ing in themes of free spec­u­la­tion, prac­tice or tech­nique.” Dur­ing this pre­view pro­gramme, critic Mor­gan Quain­tance and pre­sen­ter Kirsty Wark fol­low the for­tunes of as­pir­ing artists who are hop­ing that their work makes it through the tough and tra­di­tional se­lec­tion process.

Get­ting a sneak pre­view Kirsty Wark presents

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