Gifted at the Queen's Gallery brings together works on paper by members of the Royal Academy of Arts which were presented by the Academy as gift to the Queen in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in 2012. For the Academy, this represents a continuing tie between the institution and the Royal Family, as well as the tradition of making a gift from leading contemporary artists to mark significant monarchical milestones.

It's an interesting and varied collection of contemporary art, although the limitation to works on paper does tend to impinge on the idea of these gifts as representative of the contemporary art scene. No doubt, there are very good reasons for that: the works follow the tradition of being presented in very beautiful silk boxes, suggesting that an eye to the viability of future storage must have been of influence. That said, the range of styles and media is certainly reflective of many different approaches and ideas towards art and what kind of artworks are deemed to be suitable to form part of this gift which will remain in the Royal Collection as long as there is a monarchy.

It's quite interesting to see the particular choices that artists made in the selection of works to include. The theme of Britannia is certainly evident; not unexpectedly, Tracy Emin's sketch, HRH Royal Britania (2012), brings out a languid, glamorous, and feminine side to queenhood with a humorous and cheeky edge, while other works touch on the idea in different ways. John Maine's Westminster Abbey Sacrarium (2012) settles on a drawing of the Cosmati pavement in Westminster Abbey, the site where monarchs have been crowned since the 13th century. This seemingly spare drawing of a gothic architectural space takes on much greater meaning with the benefit of this knowledge and in consideration of the intention of the gift. 

Chris Orr's From Cleopatra's Point of View (2004) gives a great vision of contemporary London, his style of intense detail reflecting the multi-layered complexity of the London we know and love which, once again, gives a true contemporary feel of our age. The Union Jack features in a few works; quite strikingly, in Tom Phillips' Sixteen Appearances of the Union Jack (1974), a screen-print of Union Jack flags captured like a rare and endangered species.

Other works are more recognisable through their creators. Anish Kapoor's Untitled is
unashamedly Kapoor: distilled, brilliant and enveloped in colour; as is Cornelia Parker's Spitting Sugar. Parker explains that the tint was used to speak an image, to freeze a moment of dynamic expression, and the motif of dynamism that runs through her great works are recreated here in miniature, but with no less energy.

The glorious success of the 2012 Olympics also features: Anne Desmet created a body of woodcuts that reflect on the changing area around the Stratford site as preparations for the Olympics evolved. Her wood engraving, Olympic Shadows, suggests the great changes that took place in the area around the stadium, while Zaha Hadid has contributed an image of the London Aquatics Centre, showing its graceful undulating shape in steely greys. 

With over a hundred works, this review can only scratch at the surface of the breath of this show; however, the problem of such diversity is that it's difficult to gain any sense of depth as there are no real relationships between the pieces except for the tacit agreement that they are made by the leading contemporary artists of the day for this gift. The inclusion of the silk presentation boxes and Zoffany's The Academicians of the Royal Academy (1761) does go some way towards creating some sense of unity. However, it's a great pity that the reasons behind the artists' particular choices, given in the catalogue, were not included in the labelling, as this would have enlivened the exhibition and revealed its sense of purpose and the artists' sense of pride and reactions to being included in such a historic undertaking.

Gifted is certainly worth a visit, and a ticket includes the exhibition Castiglione – Lost Genius, a collection of sketches and drawings bought in 1762 by George III, creating a great counterpoint to the new addition of the Diamond Jubilee Gift and underpinning a welcome inclusion in the Royal Collection.  

Gifted: From the Royal Academy to The Queen, at Queen's GalleryRita Fennell reviews Gifted: From the Royal Academy to the Queen at Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.3