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Yinka Shonibare’s vision for the Summer Exhibition 2021

Published 12 April 2021

Summer Exhibition co-ordinator Yinka Shonibare explains how he’s “reclaiming magic” in this year’s show.

  • This exhibition is about being inclusive

    Historically, the academy is a place of education and discourse. When the Royal Academy was founded in 1768 one of its key objectives was to establish an annual exhibition open to all artists of merit, which could be visited by the public.

    My plan is to build on the Founding Members’ original principle of access, by creating an inclusive Summer Exhibition which reflects the diversity of human expression.

    We will reclaim the magic of art

    Reclaiming magic is really about two things.

    First of all it’s about artists actually being able to work viscerally and from their own instinct. It’s important not to inhibit the creative process.

    The second part is the general perception of magic, or ideas around magic which are perceived as being foreign to western ideas and western enlightenment culture. The term has connotations of dubiousness, unseriousness, of child’s play and the occult.

    To reclaim magic means to regain power over the word. Magic is not the spectacle for the foreign onlooker, it is deeply ingrained in certain pan-African cultures and is a continual source of cultural creation.

    This exhibition seeks to transcend a Western art history perspective to focus on the transformative powers of the magical in art, and a return to the visceral, joyful aspects of art-making.

    We will restore value to marginalised artists

    The Summer Exhibition will situate pan-African as well as non-academic artistic excellence in the heart of a British, cultural institution.

    We will include artists who are not normally shown within the Royal Academy, and by that I mean self-taught artists, artists with disabilities, artists from the African diaspora, and also artists trained in the Western tradition but who work in a more visceral manner.

    We aim to expand the conventional notion of art, build a more inclusive environment and to give a platform to marginalised or overlooked practitioners who have historically been erased or exploited by the western art narrative.

    This is a home for artists

    I’ve always seen the RA as a welcoming home for artists, where any artist of any form should feel at home. We are a more diverse culture now and that must be taken into account, and we have to stick to the principles of openness on which the Royal Academy was founded.

    • Summer Exhibition 2020

      Book a ticket for the Summer Exhibition 2021

      Run without interruption since 1769 – yes, even in 2020 – the Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open submission art show.

      It brings together art in all mediums, from prints, paintings, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and more by leading artists, Royal Academicians and household names as well as new and emerging talent.

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