Thursday, June 04, 2015

Three celebrity portraits at the RA Summer Exhibition 2015

These are three portraits in the 2015 Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts.

The "celebrity portraits" at the
RA Summer Exhibition 2015
When it opens on Monday 8th June, you will find very few portraits (as opposed to paintings of figures) amongst the 1,131 works in this year's Summer Exhibition.

In fact, I'm pretty certain I wouldn't need more than my fingers and toes to count them - and I might just need only my fingers.  (There's also very few dogs and cats!)

I'll be commenting on the paintings of figures and portraits of real and fictional people in a post I have yet to write at the weekend (see endnote) - because there are some serious observations to be made about artwork involving figures.

Celebrity Art

Within the context of a very low count for portraits, we have these three celebrity portraits.

You'll find these portraits in Gallery II on the right of the door that leads you into Gallery III which this year holds the small works which have been moved from the Small Weston Room into a much bigger space (hurrah!)

Last year they would have been included in that room.

This year they're included in the room of the newest Academician - which is essentially all about landscapes. I'll leave you to ponder on that one.

They are what I might call "celebrity art". From the top, they are:
  • Simon - acrylic and oil (NFS) by Jean Samcula (I can't find any evidence of a website and I'm thinking this is probably by an amateur artist and I'd ask you to temper your comments accordingly)
  • Damien Hirst - oil on board (£2,000) by Harry Hill (Yes - THAT Harry Hill)
  • Grayson and Measles - watercolour (£400) by Una Stubbs - who this year was one of the hosts on The Big Painting Challenge

You may recall that famous TV actress and presenter Una Stubbs had two watercolours of "the boys" from Sherlock (i.e. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) in last year's Summer Exhibition

TV presenter and Comic Harry Hill is a self-confessed 'hobby artist'.  You can see some of his other works here. This article describes what inspires his work.

I'm assuming nobody needs any explanation as to who Simon, Damien and Grayson are?

What do you think?

I included these portraits in a Facebook post from within the Summer Exhibition yesterday - and they've subsequently been shared and commented on by quite a few people - hence this post.

This was one of them
I am not an expert and by no means being judgemental when I look at these portraits, but I bet there are some bloody good artists out there who got their work rejected for these? How does that work?

Some serious questions for YOU!

  1. Is there a place for 'celebrity art' in the Summer Exhibition? For example, is it included just to 
    • create a talking point and 
    • play a role in marketing the exhibition i.e. get coverage within the wider media?
  2. Is there a place for serious portraiture by serious portrait artists in the RA's Summer Exhibition?
  3. Are there maybe too few portrait artists among the contemporary Royal Academicians?
  4. Or is serious portraiture best left to the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the BP Portrait Award (which also opens this month on 18th June) and the National Portrait Gallery?

Exhibition Details

The RA's Summer Exhibition 2015 opens to the public on 8th June. The exhibition fills the Main Galleries at Burlington House.
  • Admission tickets are £13.50 (without donation £12). 
  • Concessions available. 
  • Friends of the RA and under 16s go free.
  • Location
Note: As you can imagine, after Monday, I'm not feeling like writing long blog posts right now. However I will be writing one reviewing the Summer Exhibition at the weekend after I've mulled over a few ideas about how to digest it. I might even write two!


  1. Speaking as a complete non-artist: I don't object to portraits of celebrities per se. I do object to ludicrous prices because they were produced by people on the telly and I do particularly object when they look like something the organisers' kids did at school. If Una Stubbs' mother wants to attach Grayson and Measles to the fridge door, fine. Any higher recognition is a nonsense.

  2. I could be really boring and write and write .... however, No I see no place for celebrity art

  3. Does anyone know in this age of mass media what the RA summer exhibition is about,it strikes me as being the annual show of an amateur art society with some quite talented members almost lost in a heap of awful mediocrity.Perhaps this year it is an exhibition of the work by some of the near 6 thousand "artists"who didn't quite make the final cut for The BigPainting Competition.I would be very interested to hear Daphne Todd's critique of the three portraits,selected on merit no doubt!

  4. As a professional artist, it's seeing these sort of works by 'Celebrity' artists that puts me off bothering to enter. What's the point when good work gets ditched for this?

  5. When one thinks of the hundreds of probably much better works rejected by the hanging committee, one gets the feeling that the RA is being very indulgent to the BBC and ITV to accept all these very poor portraits, which I think would have been rejected by any hanging committee at any local amateur art exhibition.

    However when one considers the terrible work put in by Royal Academicians such as Tracy Emin one can see how standards have fallen. i think I would rather have my work accepted by any of the shows at The Mall Gallery than by the RA.


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