There are always thousands of people who enter paintings, photos, prints, and sculpture and handing in day–different days for different categories– is exciting. There were over 12,000 entries this year.
As soon as you get to the RA handing-in area you have to dispose of any and all packaging. The next step is they a scan an adhesive bar code that comes with the application that you stick to the back of your piece/pieces and swiftly take your work into the depths of the Royal Academy. The cost of entering one work is a steep 25£, might I add. The mere idea that there's a minute possibility of having work inside of the venerable building and hung near art by the likes of Phyllida Barlow or Anish Kapoor or Paula Rego makes it all worth the gamble. The man who swiftly took my paintings from the woman who was doing the scanning looked like Moby in a fedora. Who was he? Most likely an artist, historian, poet, magician, or musician, doing this as his day job.
So, what to do next. I strolled through the posh Burlington Gardens walkway past the elegant, pricy, over the top shops for rich tourists, to the other side of the building, thinking it would be a good idea to see the Manet exhibit. The queue wrapped around the block and there was an hour wait. There was an option– the George Bellows show going on simultaneously with absolutely no wait. This proved to be an excellent choice, a must-see exhibit, and not too many people so it was easy take in the work. There were some cold, gray landscapes of New York that could have been done yesterday. No photographs were allowed, so that's why there are no images posted here.
Next stop the spacious Hauser & Wirth space on nearby Piccadilly Street.
On show were Selected Works by Phillippe Vandenberg. The Belgian artist worked in the Neo-Expressionist style until the mid 1990's, when his work became visceral and tormented, according to the press release. The show was a blast from the past for yours truly, and I had an oh no, not again feeling until I realized Vandenberg was the real thing. Compelling, interesting, lively work. He used anything he could lay his hands on to paint. The bold smaller pieces were strongest. On a few he applied tiny squares of surgical tape that resembled mosaics. Sadly Vandenberg passed away in 2009 at the age of 57.
Some titles were: To love is to flagellate, The enemy within, The hunger of the donkey the end of the soul
He was wrestling with some demons. Painting intensely can easily push anyone over the edge. Recently there was a program on tv about chess genius Bobby Fisher. Someone discussed how chess requires much abstract thinking and this is what led Fisher to totally lose it by the end of his life. Could this be what happens to painters who become overly obsessed with their work? Maybe it doesn't occur as often to sculptors since there is the concrete aspect to sculpture, no pun intended.
Down the street there is a newer Hauser &Wirth space with Sterling Ruby's exhibition EXHM.
Press release states,"Ruby's works act as formally charged markers and allegories for the burdens that plague existence". EXHM is an abbreviation for exhumation. (Ruby apparently used junk from his studio to make this work, thus the title). The ceramics were intriguing as was the room of the epiglottis-like soft sculptures.
Victoria Miro, another gorgeous space off of Wharf Road shows lots of painting, and represents Alice Neel , Grayson Perry, Chantal Joffe, and Francesca Woodman.
This is work by Vern Dawson. I was not familiar with this North Carolinian painter, who resides part-time in NYC. Dawson's heroic landscapes are semi-abstract/ figurative. This artist knows what he is doing. It is always a breath of fresh air to see strong contemporary painting.