Summer bash at the Royal Academy
I am currently in the middle of examining and not covering myself with glory. I might have got a First when I was taking the damn things, but when it comes to exam administration I fear that I am in the running for a rather undistinguished 2.2. The less said about which the better.
So it felt as a bit of an undeserved reward last night to go to the Royal Academy's Annual Dinner, which happens just before the Summer Exhibition opens. It's one of those parties that you cross your fingers that you'll be still on the guest list next year (if anyone in the Academy is reading this, that is a hopelessly ill-disguised petitio benevolentiae).
Champagne flows in Trimalchian quantities (consumed in part by some of the very people who in public are telling us so fiercely to quit all this binge drinking), the food is not bad at all, and I've never sat next to anyone boring. Last night I fetched up, at one end of a table, between a Syrian cardiologist (could be useful), and pair of Academicians -- painter and sculptor -- and the Academy's Deputy Development Director. We had, as I recall, a great time, but the fug of champagne the morning after has rather blurred the precise topic of our conversation.
The point of the occasion, I should say, is not really to examine the exhibition in any detail. But I did find myself poring over one rather striking item.
It was a sculpture by Ruth Dupre, not unlike the one in the picture. It was made of glass and was entitled BUTCHERY: a butcher's block with four (I think) hunks of (glass) meat on the top, and from each one a large glistening glob of (glass) blood was oozing out and hanging down. (Could be yours for £3,400; the husband I should say was not so keen, even if we had had the money).
It fits, I guess, with one theme of this year's show which is "raw".
Anyway I picked up some of the curious traditions that still go in the hanging of this venerable old show, now an annual event for almost 250 years. Apparently they spend the hard days getting the stuff on the wall, drinking a peculiar concoction of warm sherry and marmite (a tipple that in some circuitous way is said to go back to Sir Joshua (pictured at the top) himself...though quite what they had in the eighteenth century instead of the marmite, I'm not sure.
I suspect that the poor old Academicians have to pretend to like the stuff. But the champagne at the opening must come as a bit of a relief.
(Oh -- if you want the TLS line on those "gladiator" skeletons from York, click here.)