2018 marks the 250th anniversary of one of this country’s greatest institutions – The Royal Academy of Arts. Royal Mail is honouring this significant milestone with an exciting issue of specially commissioned stamps. Six RA members were each asked to design a stamp featuring their own unique portrayal of the famed Summer Exhibition.
The Summer Exhibition
The Summer Exhibition at RA is the largest open submission of its type in the world. It attracts thousands of pieces from the public and has been held every year since 1769 – even two World Wars couldn’t stop it! Emerging artists are provided with an unrivalled platform to showcase their work, most of which is offered for sale. However, the Summer Exhibition has sparked controversy on several occasions over the years.
Portrait of a Killer
Perhaps the most memorable furore at the Summer Exhibition was caused by a portrait of Moors Murderer Myra Hindley in 1997. The painting by Marcus Davey outraged many visitors as it was created using a montage of children’s hands. The press were predictably up in arms, there was a picket formed by protestors outside the Academy and even Myra Hindley asked for the picture to be removed from the exhibition. The portrait was vandalised more than once but wasn’t taken down.
2018 Summer Exhibition
This year, the Summer Exhibition will be curated by Grayson Perry RA. His contribution would have itself been viewed as controversial in the past. Perhaps the nation’s best-known cross-dresser, Grayson Perry is a unique and outspoken contemporary artist who loves to challenge prejudice and conventional perceptions of fashion. Fittingly, Perry was one of the artists commissioned by Royal Mail to design a stamp for The Royal Academy of Arts issue.
The Influence of the Royal Academy of Arts
Grayson Perry is perhaps the perfect person to curate The Summer Exhibition this year. His flamboyance and eccentricities reflect the colourful history of the institution which has influenced British culture so deeply. The Academy was founded at a time when there was nowhere for British artists to meet, debate and display their work. Neither did the country boast a formal art school. The new Academy was set-up by artists and has always been run by artists. It exists only for the benefit of the arts and has never been subsidised by public money.
Prior to the establishment of the RA, Britain had produced few significant artists but things have been very different since. Turner, Constable and William Blake are amongst the greats who have studied there. Will any of this year’s exhibitors prove to be the next Turner?
The memorable stamps which feature in this issue are as follows:
1st Class: Grayson Perry – Turner prize winning artist renowned for his ceramics and tapestries who has a female alter-ego.
1st Class: Fiona Rae – Hong Kong born contemporary artist and the first female Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy of Schools.
£1.25: Norman Ackroyd – Leeds born artist whose work is exhibited at the Tate and the British Museum.
£1.25: Barbara Rae – Scottish abstract painter and printmaker revered for her handling of light and colour.
£1.55: Yinka Shonibare – British-Nigerian artist who explores issues of race and class.
£1.55: Tracey Emin – Professor of drawing at the Royal Academy and an artist whose work has often proved to be controversial.
The issue also includes a first day cover, presentation pack and stamp cards.
Royal Mail stamps often utilise the talents of British artists to showcase the various subjects covered in the themed issues. On this occasion, the work of our outstanding contemporary artists highlights our most important artistic institution. Find out more about the Royal Academy of Arts on their website.