Grayson Perry Exhibition Opens

This weekend sees the opening of a striking display of new works by maverick artist Grayson Perry. The occasional dress-wearing Turner Prize winner presents his ‘Who Are You?’ exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery. Hannah Charlesworth (24 Oct’14) 

Who Are You? depicts the theme of identity through Grayson Perry’s new portraits – which include a major tapestry, sculptures and pots –  of individuals, families and groups who are all trying to define who they are in modern Britain.

Politician Chris Huhne, a young female-to-male transsexual, a couple living with Alzheimers, a young Muslim convert and X-Factor and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Rylan Clark are among the subjects of the display by the Turner Prize-winning artist and BAFTA Award-winning broadcaster. 

The new works were created during the making of his Channel 4 series Grayson Perry: Who Are You? which followed the artist as he spent time with people questioning their own identity.


 The portrait of disgraced politician Chris Huhne is a vase decorated with a repeating pattern of motifs such as his face, his personalised number plate and a speed camera. The ceramic pot was smashed by Perry and then repaired using the Japanese kintsugi technique, where the cracks are repaired using lacquer resin dusted or mixed with gold.

The Huhne Vase is displayed opposite portraits of Gladstone and Disraeli while nearby The Earl of Essex, a Hilliard-inspired miniature of X-Factor contestant Rylan Clark (in porcelain, digital transfer, electro-formed metal and acrylic), is displayed in a showcase between the Gallery’s cabinet portraits of novelists George Eliot and Wilkie Collins.


The display begins with an etching self-portrait as a fortified town Map of Days and a huge tapestry Comfort Blanket (headline pic), a portrait of Britain which the artist describes as ‘a portrait of Britain to wrap yourself up in, a giant banknote, things we love, and love to hate.’ 

The Ashford Hijab (below), a silk screenprint, shows white Muslim convert Kayleigh Khosravi and her children on the path from what Grayson Perry describes as ‘the temple of consumerism’ of the Ashford Designer Outlet Centre to the focal point of her Muslim faith at Mecca.


Three glazed pots depict Modern Family, Jack and John, white male parents who have adopted mixed race Shea; Memory Jar showing Alzheimer’s disease sufferer Christopher Devas and his wife Veronica and Idealised Heterosexual Couple, divorcees who live apart but whose family is brought together through its love of ballroom dancing classes, meaning father Colin sees more of his daughters that many a live-in father.

 I am a Man, a small patinated brass portrait of young female-to-male transsexual Alex, echoes the Kensington Gardens statue of Peter Pan and is in the style of some of Perry’s favourite sculptures, the Benin bronzes of West Africa.

The Channel 4 series and display coincide with the publication of Grayson Perry’s new book Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to be Understood published in the autumn by Penguin. In June 2013 he was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Grayson Perry is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery, London.


 The last word…


"I have always been interested in the things we tend not to think about or take for granted, like our sense of aesthetic taste. In this show I investigate our slippery sense of who we feel we are. Identity seems to be something that is only an issue when it is threatened or problematic in some way. I have chosen as my subjects individuals, families or groups who are in situations that highlight certain aspects of being human. I am hoping that they will throw some light on experiences that we all share. With the artworks I have made I have attempted to portray the identity narrative of the subjects, the ongoing process of ‘being ourselves."  Grayson Perry

 25 October 2014 – 15 March 2015,

National Portrait Gallery, London  Admission free
Sponsor : Coutts


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