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Piers Gough assembles a fun, model-packed Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

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The CZWG architect proves a brilliant fit as curator of this year’s architecture room, writes Jon Astbury

Coinciding with the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary celebrations, this year’s summer show, brought together by ‘chief’ curator Grayson Perry, is a bumper selection of paintings, prints, sculptures and architectural models.

The annual show at the Piccadilly institution. recently given a £56 million overhaul by David Chipperfield, runs in tandem with The Great Spectacle, an exhibition looking back at 250 years of the Summer Exhibition.

This year’s show is a dizzying mix of colour, ability and material. Perry is characteristically frank about his process of selection, driven at times simply by colour – 20 per cent of the work, he reckons, was chosen by the gallery hangers, who he would instruct to find ‘a long green one’ or something similar. This, on the whole, wonderfully unstuffy series of rooms is above all about the simple joy of making and looking at art, but it is still rich with politics, satire and humour (a highlight is a portrait of Nigel Farage hung adjacent to one of a straw being inserted into a penis).

The whole being great fun to move through and around – but also rewards close observation

Given how rarely we see architecture given this joyful treatment, CZWG’s Piers Gough proves a brilliant fit as curator of this year’s architecture room.

Moving from the rather tucked away Lower Weston Room that was its home last year, this year it sits in Room IV, directly on the entrance axis, and it has stepped up to this new prominence, with a huge array of models visible as soon as you enter.

The space is an explosion of architectural ideas, elevating models of varying scales and materials on to podiums that sit almost at eye level, intended to give the feeling of walking through a miniature city. In a particularly welcome move, an arch cuts through the central podium, designed for children to run through.

This idea of a model city means things work at a surface level – the whole being great fun to move through and around – but also rewards close observation, something last year’s rendition placed a little too much emphasis on.

Paintings and models by Will Alsop and student models are set against plainer but no less crafted models by Níall McLaughlin, Amin Taha, Mikhail Riches and Knox Bhavan, among many others, as well a series of glass heads by Ron Arad, entitled Where are my Glasses, with Corbusier-style frames melted into them. DSDHA’s stunning Alternative Perspectives on the Albert Memorial is a particular highlight, its woozy twisting of perspective very much at home among Perry’s wider selection.

It has, perhaps, taken a Postmodernist curator to realise that the architecture room can at the same time laud the wackier side of representation while also presenting ‘real’ work. Both benefit from the combination.

The Summer Exhibition opens to the public next Tuesday and runs until 19 August 2018

Alma nac at royal academy summer show 2018

Alma nac at royal academy summer show 2018

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