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What’s coming up in 2017 at the Royal Academy of Arts

Published 1 September 2016

The RA’s Artistic Director introduces our 2017 exhibition programme, which explores some of the most momentous developments in 20th-century art.

  • In 2017, we’ll take you from the epic drama of the Russian Revolution to the intimacy of Henri Matisse’s studio, detouring along the streets of Depression-era USA. Each time you cross the Annenberg Courtyard and step through the grand doors of Burlington House, an exhilarating and demanding artistic experience lies in wait.

    We start the year by looking east, to Russia. Almost 100 years ago, centuries of Tsarist rule came to an abrupt and bloody end, when the Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917. The 15 years that followed marked an extraordinarily complex but important period in Russian art, which we will explore in our landmark exhibition, Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932. Celebrated avant-garde artists from Kandinsky to Malevich will be presented alongside lesser-known Socialist Realists in a show that will not only include painting and sculpture but also design, architecture, film and propaganda. This was a time of radical transformation in Russian art and culture, and I have no doubt the exhibition will have a powerful impact on all who see it.

    Upstairs in the Sackler Galleries comes America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, an exhibition reflecting the creative response to the turmoil of the Depression, as American artists searched for ways of reflecting their rapidly-changing world. In a climate of extensive urbanisation, immigration and industrialisation, modern American art emerged. It brought with it an astounding diversity of styles and techniques, from abstraction to Regionalism to Surrealism. Expect work by the young Jackson Pollock, his teacher Thomas Hart Benton, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Philip Guston and more. A special mention must go to Wood’s most famous work, American Gothic, which will be coming to Britain for the first time ever as part of this exhibition.

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    Introducing 2017 at the Royal Academy of Arts

    From art of the Russian Revolution to the inner world of Henri Matisse’s studio, discover what 2017 has in store at the Royal Academy. Narrated by our Artistic Director Tim Marlow.

  • From August through to November, we step away from sweeping historic movements, and step inside the studio of one groundbreaking artist, Henri Matisse. A voracious collector, he was drawn to everything from Buddhist statuary to textiles from Polynesia: objects from across the globe that galvanised his creativity and animated his workspace. Matisse in the Studio will offer a window into his personal collection as well as showcasing the paintings, drawings and sculptures it inspired.

    Then we’ll be zooming in on an intriguing artistic friendship that has until now been little explored – between father of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp, and the theatrical Surrealist Salvador Dalí, in Dalí / Duchamp. They found common ground in their sense of humour and scepticism and had a huge influence on one another’s work over the years. You’ll see paintings and sculptures by Dalí, assemblages and readymades by Duchamp and collaborations between them both. We hope to leave you with a radical new perspective on two great artists.

    The next living artist to be explored in a solo show in our Main Galleries is a man who has had a profound influence on the course of 20th-century art: Jasper Johns. You may be most familiar with the vivid realism of his 1950s paintings of flags and targets, but as you’ll discover, with every new decade Johns has explored new themes and ideas, as well as new ways of working. In a sense, he interrogates the whole idea of mark-making in work that is poetic, ironic, humorous, lyrical, rich in reference and texture and yet still fundamentally mysterious and enigmatic.

    And of course, a season at the Royal Academy wouldn’t be same without our annual wide-ranging festival of contemporary art, the Summer Exhibition. You’ll have to wait to find out which of our Academicians will be co-ordinating our 2017 show, but I can promise you that they will bring a fresh and imaginative eye to the task of bringing together more than 1,000 works of art by a panoply of artists, whether they’re at the very start of their careers or long-established names.

    So, 2017 is shaping up to be revolutionary at the RA – and all while renovations continue to create a beautiful new campus in time for our 250th birthday in 2018. We hope to see you soon.

    Become a Friend of the RA to see all these exhibitions for free.