Go to the opening of an exhibition at any fashionable gallery in London, and you’ll often find people looking inwards. No, not because the work has touched them to their very souls, but more at everyone else and their outfits. Indeed, anything but the art. Many will be far keener to spot the next tray of champagne or canapés than the specific brushstrokes used on the things hanging from the walls.
In my, admittedly limited, experience it seems that rather than look at the prices, you can tell the value of the art work by the quality of guest at the opening party.
And it was high at the opening of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition on Wednesday, with many of them having paid hundreds of pounds just for the privilege of stepping inside. Of course few seemed to get past the (admittedly great) bars and “food stations”, but it was nice to see people actually looking at the walls.
Now, remarkably, in its 245th year, the exhibition takes work from painters of all walks of life from world-famous members of the academy to humble amateurs. And in a very egalitarian way, all are hung or displayed together. Some invariably leave you cold, but there is much to celebrate.
I suspect I was one of the only guests who left there to go around the corner to the Embassy nightclub. It’s been in the same spot for the past 13 years, which, in nightclub years, is around 245. To members of the West End clubbing community, Mark Fuller’s spot is something of an institution and constantly reinventing itself. The party was for the launch of its pop-up restaurant Retro Feasts, and there, at least, the obvious people-watching was more acceptable: as you had a mixture of athletes (a champion boxer and an England cricketer) models and several "stars" of reality TV show Made in Chelsea to choose from.
While it was lively and fun, I left wondering if those sorts of events will be my generation’s only legacy to the cultural world, before I remembered the stuff I had seen on the walls at the RA.
But then again, I wouldn't be that surprised if in 245 years, art, reality contestants and nightclubs will still co-exist.