Nick Hackworth

Rijksakademie Victoria, Miro Gallery

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

Founded in 1870 by Willem III, King of the Netherlands, the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam was for a long time the Dutch equivalent of Britain’s Royal Academy — in the days when it really was an academy and a place of intellectual enquiry.

Over time, despite producing famous graduates including Piet Mondrian, the health of the institution declined, and in the mid-1980s it was radically reinvented as a centre for postgraduate practice in the visual arts.

Every year it takes 30 young artists from around the world, each of whom are given access to studio space, unrivalled facilities and a network of internationally known artists and critics who act as visiting advisers.

This show, effectively a celebration of the success of Rijksakademie’s recent transformation, brings together work by 16 artists who all attended the institution within the past decade. Paintings, including a number by Michael Raedecker, an ex-Turner Prize nominee, and Tim Stoner, winner of Becks Futures in 2001, are on show, as are videos, sculpture and animations.

As befits an institution that grants great freedom to its attendees, the work carries no house style and varies greatly.

Amusingly, given the academy’s history and art-world status, the best work on display is a dark, deadpan and irreverent eight-minute animation by Lars Arrhenius. The Man Without Qualities (pictured) is a classic of its kind. Using simple pictograms it tells the story of the eponymous “man without quality”, an everyman for our times, who is born, grows, masturbates, marries, procreates, gets drunk, has affairs, spends a lot of time at a computer, ages and dies. Not a work that will go down in the history of art, but funny and affecting none the less.

Also good are Jacco Olivier’s two more traditional animations, one of a woman swimming and another of a visual journey through a park, made up from two series of paintings.

In keeping with the dominant spirit within contemporary painting, the works here are quite simple, intent mainly on being visually attractive, as opposed to being about the state or history of painting. Kiki Lamers’s two large and disconcertingly mauve portraits of a baby hold their own, as do Tim Stoner’s stylised figurative paintings that emulate the look of the multi-layered 3-D images found in comics.

Given the success of its graduates, the reborn Rijksakademie has been worthwhile. Whether Willem III would have been happy with the recent fruits of his ancient investment is unclear.

Until 8 February. Information: 020 7336 8109.