Grayson Perry CBE RA is an English contemporary artist who works primarily in ceramics, textiles, drawing, and film. Born in Chelmsford on 24th March 1960, Perry believes his childhood experiences greatly shaped his aesthetic and sexuality today, with his childhood teddy bear often featuring in his works and his transvestitism being synonymous with his image as an artist. Autobiography is an important aspect of his work, along with explorations of social concerns such as identity, sexuality, gender, religion, and social class.
Perry had an unhappy childhood, moving between his parents and relying on his teddy bear, Alan Measles, to soothe his anxiety. Following the discovery of his transvestitism around the age of 15 by his family, he was thrown out of his father’s house and sent back to live with his mother, from where he was then thrown out of in 1979 and told not to return. Nevertheless, Perry was encouraged by a teacher to pursue the arts, and he went on to study for a BA in fine art at the Portsmouth College of Art and Design, where he graduated in 1982. Two years prior to this he exhibited his first piece of pottery at a New Contemporaries exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
Providing astute commentary on contemporary society, Perry’s work joins historic materials often considered simply utilitarian, and transforms them into works of art that contain highly sensitive imagery and ideas. His pair of vases from 2017, Matching Pair, are an excellent example of his engagement in examining just how different members of society are, and they are now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Each of the two vases represent one side of the Brexit vote – one of which has been designed with the contribution of Leave voters, and the other with Remainers, although which one is which remains up to the viewer to decide. This ambiguity in identifying which vase belongs to which side of society forces the viewer to question our differences with those we might think we have nothing in common with, and confronts us with our similarities.
In 2003, Perry became the first ceramic artist to win the prestigious Turner Prize, partly for his work in a solo exhibition entitled Guerrilla Tactics at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. He has since been awarded numerous accoladed: he was elected as a Royal Academician of the Royal Academy of Art in 2012, received a CBE in 2013, and was appointed as a Trustee of the British Museum in 2015, to name a few. He has also won two BAFTAs for his documentaries, in 2013 and then again in 2015.
Perry’s work across all mediums is a fascinating exploration of society, exploring a range of historical and contemporary issues such as politics, families, and psychotherapy. His work is held in important international public collections such as the Tate in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam
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