Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016

Read all about my quest to create a rag rug piece worthy of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition here. The ups, the downs, the planning behind the piece all laid bare in blog instalments over the year. Sign up to our Ragged Life Inspiration Newsletter to get the instalments delivered to your inbox.


So, I have a somewhat sheepish confession to make… I was a bit too ambitious in October envisioning that I would be able to create a large rag rug masterpiece worthy of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in only four months… whoops! My entire concept is based around the idea of incorporating clothing from all the decades from 1900-2000 – a sort of “pictorial representation of humanity through the decades” – and understandably it’s been trickier to track down clothing from certain periods than I initially thought.

I am steering clear of mint-condition vintage clothing as it doesn’t fit with the ethos of rag rugging (which was all about using up clothing that was no longer fit for purpose) and it would feel like I was butchering history as well. Below is a photo of the first item of clothing I bought for my piece – a genuine Edwardian day dress from the 1900s. It has a little damage all over but the floral pattern on the main body of the dress is just gorgeous!

Edwardian Day Dress

I bet this Edwardian day dress was incredibly striking in its prime.

Edwardian Day Dress Sleeve

There is beautiful detailing all over the dress but there are definitely parts where it’s a little worse for wear.


WHERE IT ALL BEGAN – 21/10/2016

This year I really wanted to take on an ambitious and exciting project to match the enormity of writing my book last year (yes, crazy I know). So, after much umming and ahhing, many cups of tea and musing, I’ve decided to push myself and submit a rag rug masterpiece to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, the largest open submission art exhibition in the world… eeek! It seems only fitting that I should start this journey with a brief overview of my thoughts on the 2016 line up and highlight some of my favourite pieces I saw and why.

Before we get started though, I thought I’d share this funny story from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016. According to those in the know, the selection committee went crazy for a stone slab that looked like “something had died on it”. The sculpture was accepted into the exhibition but when the artist turned up to see the piece, they asked where the rest of it was. Apparently the actual artwork had become detached from the plinth during the shipping and the actual artwork had been judged separately from the plinth it was on… and rejected. Well, if that doesn’t sum up modern art then I don’t know what does! 

On that note, here it goes… 

Transformer-Performer Double-Act VIII

The exhibition opened with quite a bang with this large, bright piece from EVA & ADELE called “Transformer-Performer Double-Act VIII”. I loved the colours and how it really packed a punch when you first went in. It’s hard to get a real idea of the scale but it was so impactful.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016

In the foreground you can see a strange creature with lots of creepy heads and in the background of this photo, the stag head was made entirely using old hangers. This was certainly the most eclectic of all the rooms at the exhibition.

Bob and Roberta Smith What Unites Human Beings

I loved this particular piece so much that I actually bought the postcard of it to take home. It’s quite difficult to see from the photo, but the quote is written on an old door.

Marble Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Forgive me for the slightly arty shot here but there was a large block of carved marble in the exhibition and although I wasn’t overly impressed by the artwork itself, the marble had a gorgeous colour and patina.

Woven Art Academy Summer Exhibition

This was one of the only textile pieces I came across in the whole exhibition. It was lovely how they had created a ombre effect with the dying process. Look out 2017, here comes rag rugging!


Yinka Shonibar Balloon Man

Balloon Man by Yinka Shonibare was quite the crowd pleaser but definitely not something I’d want in my home any time soon.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Bronze Sculpture

This was one of my favourite pieces from the entire show but I stupidly forgot to write down the name of the artist. The shapes really made me think of Matisse who I’m slightly in love with.

Tribal Vases

These tribal vases were lovely and cheerful.

Gillian Ayres Summer Exhibition 2016

There were a number of pieces from one of my favourite artists, Gillian Ayres. These two in particular would make stunning rag rugs!

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016 Gallery Wall

The Summer Exhibition is so jam-packed with art that it’s often overwhelming. I couldn’t get a very good look as they were pretty high up but I liked the colourful pair of paintings at the top here.

Monochrome art summer exhibition

I’m normally a bit fan of colour, colour and more colour but this monochrome piece was very soothing. You can see from the number of red dots in the bottom left corner that it was pretty popular with lots of other people too.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Gallery Wall

I thought these pieces really complemented each other as a group.

Close up Art Summer Exhibition

One of the most impressive parts of going to the exhibition was being able to get nice and close and see the inner workings of some of the art. This one was made up of thousands of tiny balls of paint.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it…” I thought that was a pretty funny thing to say as you’re bound to take one route…

Colourful art summer exhibition 2016

Once again, I thought this piece would make a lovely rag rug.

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6 years ago

bronze woman sculpture is “Serenade” by Eileen Cooper


[…] Like this post and want to see more? You can see my highlights from the 2016 Summer Exhibition here. […]

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