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RCA2021: Meet the curators

With over 1,000 graduating students and 5,000 works, there’s a lot to discover at RCA2021. This year, we’ve invited a range of artists, designers, curators, experts, alumni and friends of the College to curate unique collections of graduate work that will inspire, delight and provoke in equal measure.
Visitors to the online platform will discover curated collections by our Chancellor Sir Jony Ive, alongside artists Sunil Gupta, Coco Capitan, Michelle Williams Gamaker and Thomas J Price, Apple designer Peter Russell-Clarke and Head of Design at Google X, Nick Foster; Creative Director of Max Mara Ian Griffiths, Perfect Magazine’s Jeanie Annan-Lewin, Material Matters’ Grant Gibson and many more. There are also numerous collections curated by our four Schools, showcasing key disciplines and techniques. 

Read on to find out more about some of our guest curated collections, now live at

Spindle fabrics by Bahareh Saboktakin (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering) featured in Sir Jony Ive's collection
Spindle fabrics by Bahareh Saboktakin (MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering) featured in Sir Jony Ive's collection

Several of the collections bring together works that reflect the challenges, adaptations and adjustments prompted by Covid-19 and propose new ways of living in a post pandemic world. Our Chancellor Sir Jony Ive's collection celebrates the optimism of RCA graduates to triumph in the face of adversity in the pandemic, whilst Intimate Loops, curated by Olivia Ahmad, Artistic Director of the House of Illustration, is a collection of illustration graduates that find new territory through exploring homes, the routine, the local and the everyday.

These illustrated testimonies, whether disorienting, humorous or seductive, have their roots in a reality experienced by all: they are both deeply personal and vital common escape hatches.’
Olivia Ahmad

Meanwhile, for Between Worlds, Tim Dixon of Matt's Gallery has chosen works that attempt to comprehend the changes undergone in the last 15 months as we begin to emerge from successive lockdowns.

Other collections take a thematic approach, including (Against) Nature created by Sunil Gupta, an RCA alumnus whose critical photographic practice has for many years focused on race, migration, and queer issues.

I feel our subjectivities and the physical spaces that we occupy continually raise issues for each generation
Sunil Gupta

Artist Michelle Williams Gamaker has created a collection of MA Contemporary Art Practice students’ work, that explores the elemental in its broadest sense. The Elements features works ranging from a reinterpretation of gold and its relationship with modern society to an elegy in which loss and grief are methods to explore the power of water. ‘What comes to the fore is a critically speculative, humorous and poignant (beyond) human collectivism, which offers hope as we live through and recover from the global pandemic.’

The purpose, impact or agency of art and design is a common thread running through several of the collections. Colum Lowe, Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design’s Design Age Institute, has put together a selection of works Age, Agency & Joy, which demonstrate that designing for a diverse set of user needs doesn’t have to mean designing dull, functional objects.

‘There has never been a time when the pace of technological innovation has been faster and it is important to ensure that elements of society are not excluded or left behind.’
Colum Lowe

Whereas artist and RCA alumnus Thomas J Price’s Unflinching Markers presents works with insightful world visions that are made manifest through diverse practices. He says: ‘This selection might span various departments, but it is unified by the students’ clear commitment to exploring their subject matter with unflinching scrutiny, resulting in artworks and research that can celebrate aesthetics as well as create better understanding of social issues that have often been overlooked, or avoided.’

Daniel Baldé (MA Fashion / Humanwear) featured in Ian Griffiths' collection
Daniel Baldé (MA Fashion / Humanwear) featured in Ian Griffiths' collection

Creative Director of Max Mara, Ian Griffiths’ collection What is Fashion Anyway? explores the fundamentals of fashion design, reflecting on the ‘disruptive critical approach’ of our MA Fashion programme. He says: ‘This year’s graduates give us a glimpse of fashion’s vast scope and scale. From a collection with an aesthetic that chimes perfectly with the zeitgeist, to a mind-blowing manifesto for human, and post-human life. Fashion is everywhere, and it’s everything.’

Other collections are informed simply by works that have brought their curators joy. RCA alumnus and current Chair of RCAUSA, Peter Russell-Clarke, joined Apple’s small team of Industrial Designers in 2005. His collection Moments to Inspire represents just a few of the many inspirational moments he encountered in RCA2021.

‘The collective work of the RCA 2021 students is remarkable. They have managed to achieve a body of work, in times of untold hardships, that engages, intrigues and inspires.
Peter Russell-Clarke

Similarly, Nick Foster, head of design at Google X and founding partner of Near Future Laboratory, has chosen a collection of works that stood out, piqued his interest or impressed him with it's thinking. ‘In visiting countless shows over the years, I've refined my approach. Rather than trying to create an encyclopedic understanding of every piece of work, I prefer to take a stroll through the exhibition space, letting it all wash over me and allowing things to catch my eye or attention.’

Discover all our guest-curated collections at

Lead image: [Clockwise from top left] RCA2021 collection curators Jony Ive, Olivia Ahmad, Thomas J Price, Tim Dixon, Jeanie Annan-Lewin, Nick Foster, Coco Capitán, Sunil Gupta, Colum Lowe and Michelle Williams Gamaker