London’s art scene is blossoming
FRANCOIS SULTANE shares its ninth monthly column on arts and culture in collaboration with Malta weatherin which he presents a set of must-see local and international events that he encourages readers to explore.
London’s art scene is back in business, and the past two weeks have seen a flurry of openings and parties, including two of the biggest art events on the social calendar, the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition and the Serpentine Galleries Summer Party, as well as the welcome return of London masterpiece.
The Royal Academy has been organizing its summer exhibition for 254 years. Open to anyone with artistic ambitions, in all mediums, from painting to conceptual, sculpture and architecture, this year there were 15,000 entries, of which only 1,400 made the final cut, which goes to show how incredibly competitive the selection process is and what an achievement it is for any artist making their way to the hallowed galleries.
What’s so wonderful about this exhibit is that it’s incredibly democratic, and artists who may be starting their careers might find their works hanging alongside pieces by Tracey Emin or David Hockney, RA.
This year’s theme was climate, which is very timely. Sculptor Alison Wilding, RA, curated the exhibit, which is no doubt why architecture took center stage. In addition to Boonserm Premthada’s work using elephant dung bricks, there are also Marina Tabassum’s temporary housing solutions using salvaged materials for refugees fleeing the climate crisis.
Over the years works by some of the biggest names in the art world such as Wolfgang Tillman and Wim Enders have been featured and this year you can see works by Gavin Turk, Harvey & Ackroyd, The Singh Twins , Jim Dine, Ben Edge and Cornelia Parker.
One of the most thoughtful installations in the exhibition is by Spanish artist Christina Iglesias, whose work titled Wet Labyrinth Hall in the Annenberg Yard addresses the notions of climate change and the environment. Iglesias created a wonderful installation for us here in Malta for MICAS last year and it was great to see her take on the challenge of creating such an impactful piece for the Royal Academy.
The parts at summer exhibition are on sale, and it’s always been the place where many collectors discover new and emerging talent – although it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled as there are often famous names in the mix; once Winston Churchill exhibited a play under a pseudonym, and more recently comedians Joe Lycett and Harry Hill have both exhibited. I highly recommend adding the summer exhibition to your agenda this summer if you are visiting London. The show lasts until August 21.
Another must-see is the annual pavilion of the Serpentine Galleries. Pavilion 2022 is a black chapel designed by Chicago artists Theaster Gates, supported by Adjaye Associates. The chapel will host a series of events, including Brian Eno, The Black Monks, Corinne Bailey Rae and Moses Boyd. Within the pavilion are a series of tar paintings, and the entire pavilion has been designed as a gathering, meditation space centered around sacred music, which aims to bring reflection, connection and joy to the public, all things that we are definitely in need these days.
Next to the pavilion, there will be exhibitions by Dominque Gonzalex-Foerster: Alienarium 5 and back to earth, a new exhibition with a live program also responding to the climate emergency. The London premiere of the famous climatic opera Sun & Sea will also be organized during the summer. The pavilion will be visible until September 4.
It was great to come back to London masterpiecethe first time since 2019. The Masterpiece Art Fair is where international collectors can buy the finest works of art, design, furniture and jewelry – from antiquity to the present day.
I was particularly impressed with this year’s The masterpiece features… which featured two monumental light installations by Pakistani-American artist Anila Quayyum Agha who created an illuminated cube, made from laser-cut steel in which elaborate patterns had been cut, which were suspended and illuminated from within , flowing lace-like floor-shaded ceiling, which completely transform the surrounding environment, alluding to the richly adorned public spaces, such as mosques, from which Agha was excluded as a woman growing up in Lahore.
Agha’s second installation in Masterpiece, This is NOT a Refuge IIexplores the loss of family and home that results from displacement and resettlement.
I urge everyone (current flight issues aside) to try to get on a plane this summer and visit London while the sun is shining and the art world is out.
I will take August off and return with my next column in September. If you want to find out what I do each month, follow me on Instagram @francis_sultana.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.