‘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.
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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.