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Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 14:24 GMT
Pop goes the Royal Academy
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst has divided the arts world
Pop artist Peter Blake has angered traditionalists at the Royal Academy of Arts by inviting controversial artists such as Damien Hirst to show work in this year's Summer Exhibition.

The London-based academy's summer show is the largest, and arguably the most prestigious, open exhibition in the world and is seen as a refuge for painters.

Anyone can send in a work of art to be considered for exhibition, while more established artists are invited to exhibit.

Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin will be invited to exhibit at the Royal Academy
But Peter Blake, who famously designed the cover of the Beatles' album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, plans to invite Britain's young artists, including Hirst and Tracey Emin, to exhibit at the show in his role as chief curator.

Some of the institution's 80 Royal Academicians have complained that the plans erode the exhibition's role as a preserve for painting.

Hirst, best known for his works of animals in formaldehyde-filled tanks, and Emin, whose urine-stained bed captured headlines as an exhibit for the Turner Prize in 1999, are the darlings of the Young British Artists movement.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Academy said: "Peter Blake will be inviting some of the younger, more contemporary artists in addition to the usual exhibitors.

"He has some very different, very positive ideas."

'Criticisms'

In response to criticisms of the plans, she said: "The Academy is made up of a body of 80.

"They are all artists, sculptors and architects and they are all incredibly intelligent and Peter Blake would be the first to admit they have their own ideas and opinions."

She added: "It does not mean it will change the course of history. It is only one year."

Leonard McComb, former Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools, told The Times that the Royal Academy was falling prey to "Turner Prize syndrome".

He said: "It's fashion and the Summer Show is going that way."

Painter Elizabeth Blackader, an Academician who curated the Summer Show in 1997, told the Times that she too was "concerned".

Vanguard

The Royal Academy has been at the vanguard of new British art in the last decade, hosting two of the most controversial exhibitions in recent times, Sensation and Apocalypse.

Sensation helped cement the daring reputation of many of the Young British Artists in 1997. Last year Apocalypse courted further controversy in a show many claimed was the "sequel" to Sensation.

Around 10,000 works are submitted to the exhibition ever year, which attracts 100,000 visitors, but only 10% are chosen to be shown.

The selection panel are not told the identity of the artists when making their choices.

See also:

27 Dec 00 | Entertainment
The year art was hot
20 Sep 00 | UK
Art's shock treatment
28 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Photographer wins Turner Prize
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