Issue Number: 104
Everyone likes a glimpse behind the scenes. It is certainly something that we have enjoyed this issue. Our cover image is a clue. Look closely into those shiny spheres and you will see, in miniature, Anish Kapoor in his studio. Our photographer Leon Chew was lucky enough to take a new portrait of the sculptor and also to visit, along with art critic Sarah Kent, Kapoor’s south London workshops where his particular brand of magical alchemy takes place. You can read the interview and see Leon’s pictures here.
Our magazine cover shows a maquette for perhaps the most breathtaking sculpture ever seen at the Royal Academy. The mock-up above gives a suggestion of what this piece will be like when it is installed in the Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard. At around 40ft high, it will nearly match the height of the surrounding buildings; at its heart is a void, a central vertical core – look up and you can see the sky and contemplate exactly what this dazzling, apparently self-supporting structure means and how it works.
Effortlessly ethereal you could say, though – in the spirit of sharing with you more backstage information – some other words might be applicable too. ‘The installation and preparation of the galleries for the Kapoor exhibition will be hugely complex, noisy and messy, with wax, pigment, large sheets of steel, concrete slabs, cement, tons of stainless-steel etc, all being moved into the main galleries and courtyard,’ warned an internal memo that hit Academy inboxes a few weeks ago. There’s a heady mix of excitement and trepidation in the air, which is a sure sign of the RA at its best.
I hope this magazine captures a little of the excitement (if not the trepidation). Also in this issue, Richard Cork tells the story behind ‘Wild Thing’, his exhibition of the often shocking work of Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Eric Gill; John Hoyland RA meets up with Damien Hirst for a remarkable conversation in which they share thoughts on painting; Lisa Milroy RA tells us why she's taken to hanging her pictures on a washing line; and one of the newest Academicians, Hughie O’Donoghue, reveals the moving story behind work inspired by his father’s wartime memories.
And that’s just to scratch the surface. Elsewhere, Humphrey Ocean RA experiences first hand the work of the Academy’s Outreach life drawing programme; Richard Sharp, Chairman of the Academy Trust, discusses his role in the running of the institution and Simon Wilson sets the scene for this year’s ‘GSK Contemporary', – which will represent artists’ take on the most pressing problem of our age, global climate change.
For me, there is also a hint of autumn sadness... this will be my last issue as editor. Sarah Greenberg returns next issue, baby in arms, to take up where she left off a year-and-a-bit ago, which leaves me to say how much I have enjoyed my personal peek behind the scenes.
The generosity, with their time and advice, of the artists who make up the Academy is matched by the professionalism of the permanent staff who produce and support the shows. Not the least important part of the mix that makes the Academy so special, are the visitors and Friends who read this magazine.
Finally, congratulations to Kate Pearce from Teddington, winner of our Norman Ackroyd print competition. Recently retired, Kate is a regular visitor to the Academy, and a huge fan of the Summer Exhibition: ‘I like the fact that aspiring artists get to show their work alongside the Academicians.’ Yes, another very special part of the mix.