The Royal College of Art turns 175

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is celebrating its 175th birthday with a nostalgic and sentimental show entitled A Perfect Place to Grow.
One of the oldest schools of its kind, the RCA has consistency produced some exceptional, controversial and much talked about artists, designers and architects.
This includes Gertrude Jekyll, Sir James Dyson, Eric Parry, David Adjaye, Tord Boontje, Lady Elizabeth Butler, Dame Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Eduardo Paolozzi, Chris Ofili, George Shaw and Tracey Emin.
The latter receives the honour of having the exhibition named after her 2001 work, which Emin has explained as being something for her Turkish Cypriot father, a “fantastic gardener but terrible carpenter”.
In some ways it’s a very serious show. Not only does it look at how the institution has evolved over the years – assessing its historical relevance – it also casts the net further and examines contemporary thinking on art education.
The exhibition is split up into five sections: Art for Industry, which discusses the importance of design on industry; Public Purpose, which survey’s the RCA’s impact on British society; Political Expression, a revelatory history of the college’s most radical artists; and Personal Expression, which ultimately looks at the purpose of art.
Co-curated by Dr Paul Thompson, rector of the RCA, and Robert Upstone of the Fine Art Society and former head of British Modern and Contemporary Art at the Tate, this is a gigantic presentation.
As the sections of the show reveal, the RCA’s impact has been extensive, not just confined to aesthetics or art. That the college has produced so much talent over the years is testament to its ability to consistently deliver.
The RCA is an exceptional place of ingenuity, and, in its embracement of change, it has continued to be at the forefront of innovation. Nevermind that it was born in the Victorian era.
A Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art runs until January 3rd 2013.
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