Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!

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Grayson Perry, 'Matching Pair', 2017. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London. Photo: Robert Glowacki. © Grayson Perry.
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Grayson Perry, 'Animal Spirit', 2016. Courtesy the artist, Paragon Press and Victoria Miro, London. Photo: Stephen White © Grayson Perry.

‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ said a wise uncle to his superhero nephew once. It’s a sentiment that hovers around Grayson Perry’s exhibition. Granted, Perry’s own alter ego wears lipstick and gingham rather than a mask and spandex, but the artist/transvestite/unlikely national treasure feels just as much the reluctant hero. This show is intended as a meditation on the role of popularity in art, but if it does anything, it highlights there’s little difference between one ‘P’ word and the other.

It was Perry’s ceramic pots that threw him into the mainstream's limelight, but here you’ll also find tapestries, woodcuts, assemblages and custom-made motorbikes and skateboards. Those who deride him for glibly milking the zeitgeist (middle-aged broadsheet critics for the most part) won’t be converted here. Nationalist politics, art-world bickering, the class divide, austerity Britain – Perry casts his net far and wide, with a wry frown and his tongue in cheek.

Curiously, it’s the bleaker moments that resonate most. Those who’ve read his book ‘The Descent of Man’ will know he views traditional masculinity as a ticking time bomb of rising suicide rates, domestic abuse and online misogyny; in one woodcut, it’s depicted as a snarling beast with humongous bollocks whose innards are labelled with words like ‘logical’, ‘rational’ and ‘important.’ Another piece, a savage takedown of the institution of marriage, features two miserable-looking wooden spouses encased in an airtight box. Uncommonly for artists, Perry is at his best at his most righteous.

What really undermines all his elitism-versus-populism, high-versus-low, posh-versus-common prevaricating is a strong sense that, deep down, he wishes he was still the un-pigeonhole-able outsider who confounded TV audiences when he accepted the Turner Prize in a frock in 2003. He isn’t. If the nationwide exhalation of progressive hope on June 8 proved anything, it’s that we’re entering more awakened times. And whether he likes it or not, Perry is now a fully-paid member of the establishment. Power, popularity: whatever you want to call it, he has it. His art needs to catch up, and start acting the part.

By: Matt Breen

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4.3 / 5

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tastemaker

Having queued for a while to get in, I was curious as to whether The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! would really be worth it.

It was.

Though it was a small show, the work that was represented had massive popular appeal. The scale and detail, and the humour, of Perry's practice was a joy to observe. His ability to explore contemporary social concerns was very clearly evident in the exhibition, which was actually accessible due to its free entry.

If you get the chance to see Perry's work up close, you really should. And while you're at it, check out his book Playing to the Gallery for an insight into his thoughts on the contemporary art world of which he is part. I found it an interesting commentary on this show in particular.


Overall, I really enjoyed The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!, it's just a shame it was such a small show.

Tastemaker

I didn’t know much about Grayson Perry, just his very ‘out-there’ persona. I would not have gone to this exhibition weren’t it for free: I’m so glad I did! Although a lot of it can be seen as cliché, somehow it does resonate as genuine worries, views, questions. The mixture of craftsmanship, ‘naïf-like’ aesthetics and clearly a good lot of sense of humour, this show allows for a great experience for anyone with some open heart – any age. The display of his sketchbooks alone is worth some time in the gallery! I ended up buying his book afterwards (the serpentine bookshop is dangerous!), and I’m definitely a fan now!

tastemaker

Can't pretend I'm a Grayson Perry fan, or understand the pieces on display at the exhibit. Unfortunately the crowd, while controlled, were slightly too excitable to comfortably absorb the overwhelming detail in Perry's social critiques.

The objects seemed strangely out of place, each like a screaming naked baby in a minimalist white room. Perry's flamboyant style seems to deserve a different setting to allow the art work to feel more at home. More information provided would go a long way to engage with the viewers.

Tastemaker

I have never been to the Serpentine Gallery (well I went to a fashion party - but that doesn't count) so when I was strolling past on Sunday and there was a sign for this exhibition, I thought I would pop in. It is amazing (and lovely) that we can offer art for free to anything after that point is a privilege to me. It was super busy, although I didn't have to queue to get in, but there was large crowds of people just standing in front of the art chatting. Any who, it is free and Sunday so live and let live. I really enjoyed the colourful subversive world, and like the commenter before me, would have loved a little information to accompany each piece. But yeah, good, go, enjoy!


What comes with a review is huge responsibility, but at the same time, a review is just an opinion. I for one don't agree with Breen's, that Perry's 'art needs to catch up and start acting the part'. What does that even mean??? The art works in this exhibition are what they are. There's no deep meaning, they are accessible, diverse, playful and really detailed. The layers and detail on Perry's pottery pieces and those on the tapestry 'Battle of Britain' are wonderful! I could have stared at that tapestry for hours checking it out. The size of his woodcuts were really impressive and looking at his sketchbooks made me realise how much I miss creating one of my own. Perry's are intensely creative and prolific. I happen to think Grayson Perry has done wonders for the art world. His style is timeless and his ideas always so current. My only criticism was that they only had titles of the art works in the exhibition with no explanations or stories. I love stories in an exhibition, although it did make me buy the book, which I very much enjoyed reading on my tube ride home. Do go see it if you can. It's small and free. Don't be put off by the queues. They move quickly.


I was not expecting anything much from this exhibition after reading the review by MATT BREEN. When I reached the gallery, there was a short queue of about 20 minutes. I was like "should i wait or should i go??". But, ended up staying. Once I stepped into the gallery, I was amazed by Greyson Perry's work. I like his porcelain,  tapestries and woodcuts. They were amazing! My personal favourites were "Our Mother", "Marriage Shrine" and "Long Pig". Definitely a must go if you drop by Hyde park this summer. ps.I am sure you will be amazed by the Serpentine Pavilion this year. It's so chic and modern. The brownie was so rich.