How time flies! When I was a student at the Royal College of Art it celebrated its centenary. That the college is now celebrating its 175th anniversary either means that I am a lot older than I thought or that the powers that be at the RCA can’t count. Or that they really like big birthdays. As it turns out, it’s this last option that sees the college celebrating 175 years as an art school a mere sixteen years after celebrating its centenary: the then Government School of Design was founded in 1837, becoming the National Art Training School in 1863 and the Royal College of Art in 1896.
The exhibition charts the history of what is apparently the world’s oldest art and design school in continuous operation and it’s an illustrious and fascinating history. Given the pool of alumni (and staff, past and present) from which the curators could select work, there were always going to be surprises both in terms of inclusions and omissions but this is a show that amply demonstrates the impact of RCA alumni on our cultural and day to day lives.
Bob and Roberta Smith knows how to make a point. In the exhibition The Art Party USA Comes to the UK at Hales Gallery at the moment (okay, not for much longer but there’s still a chance to catch the show if you’re quick), he’s in full-on soap box mode – he’s even made his own soap boxes for the occasion – in a bid to entice us to join the Art Party of the USA. The starting point for the Art Party was Bob and Roberta Smith’s May 2011 letter to Michael Gove, which he published to encourage others to write in to emphasise the importance of art in the school curriculum. Not a political party in any traditional sense, according to the website in order to join one simply needs to “make some art and encourage others to do so!”