LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Artist Tracy Emin provided the kind of emotional drama she is famous for, but it was cross-dressing ceramicist Grayson Perry who delivered the shock blow at the opening day of the British Royal Academy’s summer art exhibition show in London on Monday.
Emin had four works and Perry only one on display in the world’s largest open submission contemporary art exhibition held every summer at the Academy’s imposing 17th century building in London’s luxurious Mayfair neighborhood.
Emin and Perry’s work rested alongside more than 1,200 works of art from academicians such as David Hockney and David Mach to “Hub 2007 - 10,” an inkjet map of London which competed for space against the 300 photographs, mixed media, paintings, etchings and drawings in the building’s Large Weston room alone.
Texan tourist Wendell Holloway who is visiting London with his family said this year’s show had some flair compared to the last one he’d seen four or five years ago.
“It seems more lively now than it was then,” he said. “There are a few pieces we are interested in buying.”
Emin’s “But I Think I Love You” consisted of a dirty off white canvas with “BUT I LOVE YOU” scrawled in big red letters and then a slightly smaller message in black: “SOMETIMES I DON’T THINK” and some barely discernable letters in white underneath.
She also had “For You” — a polymer gravure etching of a small dog in blue —and another polymer gravure etching “No Idea” of a naked woman from behind, who is turned to look back at a number of penises doing the high jump with the message:
Perry’s “Personal Creation Myth” ceramic vase depicts a Madonna figure kneeling in what looks like a manger scene until the eye travels to where the Madonna’s cloak falls away to reveal a penis to which an umbilical cord is attached that travels to a “baby” in the shape of a teddy bear.
A queue of devotees trails around the vase of characters in various throes of devotion, many holding a small teddy bear. One looks like a priest/rabbi with a burqua-type veil and the kind of hat worn by many orthodox Jews.
David Hockney’s series of photographs of trees near his Bridlington home town in the northern English county of Yorkshire provides an example of the English artist’s fondness for photographs and wizard technological skills as the series of photos were “stitched together” on computer to create several large panoramic shots.
Those joined works such as “Silver Streak” a giant King Kong-like gorilla made of coat-hangers, the painting “Einschuesse” where massive mountains shot through with bullet-holes that seep reddish ooze down onto a barren plain filled with rows of black stick-like figures fleeing the horrors of war and video installations.
At the center of the show stood a dilapidated, red, old-fashioned car with the wheels broken off and a driver with no head sprawled back as if after a crash.
“Crash Willy” by Yinka Shonibare appears to be making a statement about the headlong drive in the financial markets that led to the credit crunch and the resulting economic malaise that has touched Britain and the world.
The driver is wearing clothes of money and the car’s license plate is the letters of the London bourse’s top index FTSE.
The most dramatic video installation was “Acceptance” by Bill Viola, which consisted of a naked middle aged woman who walks forward from a barely perceptible silhouette into a starkly crisp shot of her plunging through a shower of water with a look of pain and grief on her face before turning and retreating back through the shower and toward darkness again.