Subjective art fails to unite show's hanging judges: Fifteen Royal Academy experts cannot reach unanimity on one work. David Lister reports

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The Independent Online
NOT ONE of the 13,000 paintings and sculptures submitted for this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition succeeded in pleasing all 15 judges on the academy's hanging committee.

This insight into how difficult it is for even some of the best artists in Britain to gain unanimous approval from the Royal Academy establishment was given by a member of the hanging committee at the exhibition's private view yesterday.

It was all the more surprising as this year's exhibition is particularly impressive, with a high standard of work laid out with greater attention to the lighting of the galleries, the vistas they open up, the contrast of paintings at different ends, more architectural exhibits, and entries from some of the best-known names in British art.

Of the entries that came before the hanging committee, 1,300 were chosen for the exhibition, which opens to the public on Sunday. Ken Howard, Royal Academician and a member of the hanging committee, said at least 100 pictures of sheep were among the rejects.

The entries include Peter Blake's pounds 40,000 new pop-art collages; Allen Jones's gleaming portrait of the ballet dancer Darcey Bussell; and Norman Adams' prize-winning expressionist watercolour Cycle Of Love and Death - but not even these received the committee's unanimous approval.

Mr Howard said: 'Refusals have an 'X' put on the back, doubtfuls a 'D' and definite acceptances an 'A'. To get an 'A' you have to have all 15 members saying they agree. This didn't happen in a single case. Art these days is so subjective, it's almost impossible for anyone to gain that sort of approval.'

This year's summer show did not have a room devoted to amateur painters as it did last year. In that room there were several pictures of John Major and the Princess of Wales - subjects that are absent from this year's show, even though it contains a number of exhibits from amateur painters. If nothing else, the show indicates which icons have fallen from the country's palettes.

(Photograph omitted)