I went to the Grayson Perry curated exhibition at the British Museum today. I thought that it was brilliant – but I am a fan of Perry so he was on to a winner with me. Not only is he exhibiting ceramic objects but also a very large tapestry and some awesome metal pieces made from cast iron. I was relieved to read that he did not cast the metal objects himself – that would be too much, talk about renaissance man! Unfortunately, they would not allow photographs to be taken – which I was initially cross about – but actually it made me spend much longer in front of each object taking every detail in. I even went to the shop and bought paper and pen so that I could write down Grayson’s words of wisdom (or artist statements.)
The exhibition shows the connection between contemporary craftspeople and ancient craftsmen. Perry represents the contemporary craftsperson and objects from the British Museum represent all the unknown ancient craftsmen. He explores the idea that we go to museums to “worship” exhibits, like a modern-day religion and underlining this theme Grayon displays his own contemporary ceramic shrines alongside ancient shrines. Perry also comments on this aspect of the exhibition.
“I put significant artefacts in a special place for us to contemplate upon. The special place could be in your pocket, in a corner of your house or by a roadside, it could also be a contemporary art gallery or the British Museum. As humans I think how we look at art has developed from the way we look upon gods, altars and relics in shrines and sacred spaces”
Amongst other areas, Perry explores the theme of sexuality; questions to whom exhibitions like his are aimed; delves into his own imaginary world (ruled by his teddy bear Alan Measles!); looks at journeys with Alan Measles; comments on fake artefacts and explains his love of craftsmanship.
It was a very enjoyable exhibition indeed. If you want another take on it though, read Brian Sewell’s review in The Evening Standard newspaper. Then you should go yourself and see what you think about it all!
Perry says on Craftsmanship
“Craftsmanship is often equated with precision but I think there is more to it. I feel it is more important to have a long and sympathetic hands on relationship with materials. A relaxed, humble, ever-curious love of stuff is central to my idea of being an artist. An important quality of great art of the past was the pure skill in the artist’s use of materials. In celebrating craftsmanship I also salute artists, well most of them.”