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London is Open - Royal Academy of Arts, Michael Armitage

An exciting new force in painting, Michael Armitage draws from Titian, Goya, Manet and Gauguin to explore East African culture and folklore.

Please note:

This exhibition contains some adult content. Please ask a member of staff for more information. Download a large print guide. We are continuing to prioritise exhibition access for Friends and supporters. However, capacity in our galleries is greatly reduced and sadly we can’t guarantee access if time slots are fully booked.

Michael Armitage is a Kenyan-born artist who works between Nairobi and London. His colourful, dreamlike paintings are loaded with provocative perspectives that play with visual narratives and challenge cultural assumptions, exploring politics, history, civil unrest and sexuality.

Made using Lubugo bark cloth, a culturally important material made of tree bark by the Baganda people in Uganda, many of his large-scale works draw on contemporary events, combining these with Western painting motifs.

This spring – just over 10 years since Armitage graduated from the Royal Academy Schools – we bring together 15 of his large-scale paintings from the past six years, exploring East African landscapes, politics and society.

Alongside will be a selection of 31 works by six East African contemporary artists: Meek Gichugu, Jak Katarikawe, Theresa Musoke, Asaph Ng’ethe Macua, Elimo Njau and Sane Wadu. Chosen by Armitage for their important role in shaping figurative painting in Kenya, these seminal artists have also had a profound impact on his own artistic development. A version of this part of the exhibition will be shown at the Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute, a non-profit visual arts space founded by Armitage.

Armitage has also selected works by three Kenyan artists – Wangechi Mutu, Magdalene Odundo and Chelenge van Rampelberg – that will be displayed in The Dame Jillian Sackler Sculpture Gallery, just outside the exhibition galleries. This display invites conversations between the three artists’ works and sculptures from the RA’s collection, which were curated by Richard Deacon RA. (Please note: this display is only accessible to Michael Armitage ticket holders).

Exhibition organised by Haus der Kunst, Munich, in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

About the Royal Academy of Arts

For over 250 years, the RA has existed to champion art and artists. Enjoy RA expanded campus with free displays, new spots to eat, drink and shop, and much more.

Run by the Royal Academicians, artists and architects elected by their peers in recognition of their exceptional work. Home to Britain’s longest established art school, the RA Schools. Every year since 1768 RA have held an annual Summer Exhibition, the largest open-submission art exhibition in the world. To present a collection of art and architecture in free displays throughout the home on Piccadilly. And they put on world-class exhibitions of art from around the world, welcoming hundreds of thousands of people to the galleries each year.

From ancient sculpture to modern-day masterpieces, RA are the original home of the blockbuster exhibition. Staged an annual Summer Exhibition, the world’s largest open-submission exhibition. Events programme opens up the worlds of exhibitions and helps introduce new audiences to RA art and artists.

22 May — 19 September 2021

Tues–Sun: 10am–6pm

£15 (without donation £13)

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