LONDON — After two years of pandemic-related changes, The Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition party is back where it belongs, on the June social calendar, and with the city’s creatives, including Riz Ahmed, Simone Ashley, AJ Tracey, Anne-Marie, Christopher Kane and Erdem Moralioglu, polished and present.
For the past two years the summer exhibition, which takes place at the 254-year-old institution on Piccadilly, had been postponed to the winter and the openings were low-key, with masks and social distancing.
But those days are over, in London at least.
This year, the exhibition’s theme is climate, and the show was coordinated and led by the award-winning British sculptor Alison Wilding. The 1,500 pieces on display, created by a wide variety of artists, are available for visitors to purchase.
The summer exhibition has taken place since 1769 and is the oldest open submission exhibition in the world. Anyone can enter their work to be considered for inclusion.
Wednesday night’s party was organized by Burberry, which has been working to polish its green credentials, and staged a series of environmentally-focused installations during the Platinum Jubilee earlier this month.
Guests entered the party through the RA courtyard where the Spanish installation artist and sculptor Cristina Iglesias had fitted a moss green maze box, meant to imitate old ivy, for people to pass through.
Inside, each room had been overseen by a different curator.
The standout space was Grayson Perry’s vivid (borderline acidic) yellow room housing a buffet of ethically and locally sourced seasonal produce from within 100 miles of the academy.
Food on offer included Scotch eggs; Dorset crab rolls; diced tomatoes with fennel and herb panna cotta, and oysters. The free-flowing Champagne was from the academy’s neighbor across the street, Fortnum & Mason.
Perry also curated the print rooms, and was proud to do so.
“Often artists can be a bit snippy about the idea of interior design, but basically, that’s what we’re f–king doing,” said Perry who was wearing Sophia Webster platform heels and an iridescent dress made by one of his students.
The artist is working on a documentary based on England, and inspired by real-life events such as Brexit, the Scottish independence movement and Irish reunification.
“Nobody talks about England because, for some people, it has different associations. I’m talking to people about it because identity, and national identity, is a big issue these days for a lot of people,” said Perry.
Wednesday was also fashion’s big night out. Royal Academy committee member Moralioglu bought a small portrait, “a little abstracted face,” at the event.
He said he loves the exhibition “because it’s that wonderful mix of extraordinary established artists and new artists.”
Young designers Bianca Saunders and Daniel W. Fletcher said the pace of summer has been dizzying so far.
Saunders is traveling to Morocco with her partner and traveling to Paris next week to present her second menswear collection, which she described as “eclectic.”
Fletcher has been shuttling between New York and London, dividing his time between Fiorucci and his eponymous label, which this summer is filled with “sexy things for the summer for guys.”
The designer has just shot the new Fiorucci campaign in New York and is going to Paris next week to release it. He hinted that the collection will be going back to the brand’s heritage, with strong references to the Big Apple, Studio 54 and the 1970s.
He plans to return to London to host a Fiorucci fashion show at The Edition during Pride Month. He’s flying some of his favorite drag queens in for the celebration.
“It’s great to see people who are not that established having a moment to shine. It’s a big deal to be hung in this gallery,” said Kane, who will be staging his own show of around 60 works at Galerie Gugging in Vienna starting on June 24.
He turned to painting during the first lockdown and turned his artwork into prints for his spring 2021 collection.
The Royal Academy’s summer party was an opening act for what’s to come during the (hopefully) sunny season.
“It’s all about festivals and pool parties,” said Storm Mollison, who DJ-ed at the event. Her plans for the summer include playing at Wilderness Festival, Lost Village Festival and curating a pool party at Shoreditch House in July.