'Art makes children powerful'.
'Art makes children powerful'.
A good height for little ones.
A good height for little ones.
Studying the little figures.
Studying the little figures.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London

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Kids in Museums volunteer Phillipa Ellis reviews the wide-reaching 249th show, including work from all over the world, as well a range of media from traditional painting, printing, video, and even performance art.

Originally established as their most inclusive exhibition, showcasing work from popular and emerging artists for all to enjoy, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition seemed perfect to road-test for Kids in Museums.

My six-year-old daughter was so excited to arrive in bustling Annenberg Courtyard, with its fairytale mansion, Burlington House, temporarily accompanied by the colourful Wind Sculpture from artist Yinka Shonibare.

After a quick bag search, we headed into the ticket hall. If you’re traveling with a baby, this is the best place to change them, with the accessible toilet and changing located to the right of the main stairs.

We were met by friendly staff and offered an Art Detectives sketchbook. Free to all young visitors, this pack is full of pages for sketching, as well as cue-cards with in-gallery activities to focus your thoughts. This could not have been better timed because within minutes of arriving, we were bamboozled with the variety on offer, and excited by the prospect of over 1000 works to enjoy, across more than 10 galleries.

It was impossible to ignore the giant Petrol Cargo sculpture, and the quirky motorised peacock feathers ticking above us. Fortunately, each piece had a corresponding number, so we began a game to spot them, looking up the artist, the work and the jaw-dropping price in our handy free guide.

The art was spaciously arranged, leaving generous distances between sculptures and toddlers, and space to guide around with a single buggy or wheelchair. The curation of work into what felt like themes, also alleviates boredom for young companions. There’s portraits, landscapes, abstract and still life. There’s plenty of humour, such as a flattened teapot featured in no. 538 Alter Ego, and a scattering of video installations with headphones, one of which my daughter claims to feature parakeets! The virtual reality goggles in the large Weston Room could’ve also helped us both enjoy more of the architectural work.

Family visitors should definitely exercise caution in Gallery IX and Gallery X, which contain more themes of adult nature. More than one work in here contains graphic nudity, and profanity features widely in the work of Gilbert and George. The final video installation also features disturbing images on the topic of migration and the plight of refugees.

The gift shop includes a few souvenirs can be found for under £5, but our usual tea and cake treat had to be substituted for a glass of water and a cookie, to avoid the steep prices of the RA cafe. Although high chairs are readily available, few families wanted to stretch to £5 for a slice of cake. At almost £3 for a cup of tea, you’d definitely expect it to be served in their best silverware – especially when eating your own food and drink is only permitted outside in the courtyard.

Eating aside, the Summer Exhibition remains a brilliant lure for families to visit one of London’s most prestigious art venues and enjoy the work of world class artists.

The Summer Exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts runs until the 20th August 2017.

Tickets: Adults: £15, under 16s: free.

Opening times: Everyday 10am- 6pm.

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