Michael Craig-Martin has been widely and rightly praised for shaking up this most established of group summer shows. The three largest galleries have been given a makeover with pink and turquoise walls setting of the both the artwork hung and the architectural features of the Royal Academy itself. More so than in some previous years, it seems that the focus in some of the galleries or the sweeping views from one space to another are secured for some of the bigger names; Richard Long's mud splashes dominate a western wall in such a way that you approach it from rooms away. Anish Kapoor's plinth based bubbling untitled acrylic block stops the flow of viewers, Alan Charltan's long exploration of grey is given a striking location for a recent triangular canvas and of course the staircase piece by Jim Lambie has been the irresistible subject of thousands Instrgrams.
It cannot be underestimated how hard a job it must be to deal with such a vast application of art; of course digital submissions make the entire back end process easier for the RA but even at the point of display there more than eleven hundred exhibited pieces - something so vast it could and has been too much of a barrage of art to enjoy. This year though there is a lightness of touch, the curation is extremely accessible and amid the constant conversation of the public decrying the cost of everything, "Nine thousand pounds!" I only overheard one more senior couple exasperated by the sheer volume of work to be seen.
As each year there are paintings and sculptures, wall based and smaller, floor based and taller - printmakers have been given greater emphasis in the galleries being used and attending the show so late in its run it's interesting and heartening to see just how many editions of various pieces have been sold. There is an unavoidable leaning within the domestic environment for more smiling faces and pretty animals than the bolder choice of public and commercial spaces; this is nothing new and not likely to change.
Conrad Shawcross dominates the Annenberg Courtyard with his The Dappled Light Of The Sun - it is a wonderful mathematical series of forms; like the show itself, far lighter than anything made from weathered steel has any reason to be. See it quickly, for it will soon be replaced by a crowdfunded installation of trees for Ai Weiwei's forthcoming retrospective. It is sure to be an autumn highlight more recently given greater stock with the Chinese returning the artist's passport and Teresa May ensuring his visa is open for six months.
https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/summer-exhibition-2015 until August 16th