Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!
UNTIL 10th SEPTEMBER 2017
Grayson Perry is a national treasure (and a must have guest for your dinner party, apparently). An inevitable part of the draw to this exhibition is the draw of the man himself -he’s a brand, and in a way that detracts from the very poignant (but never really original) digs he makes at society, class relations and gender constructs. Though the opening date coinciding with the general election was a nice touch.
The well-known and widely loved pots and tapestries are there. His humour, as always, is quick witted and the causes he fights for are topical with two Brexit pots A Fine Pair 2017 making the case for ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ (It’s clear which side Perry is on, and it’s not the one with Cadburys chocolate and Nigel Farage on it) which comes off the back of his channel 4 documentary series Divided Britain. Perry’s alter ego also makes an appearance on the pots. No, not Clare – but his childhood teddy bear Alan Measles. Alan is worshipped by Trump and Corbyn as the symbol of childhood innocence.
With all of these Perry-isms around it was nice to see his sketchbooks on display. It turns out that the Grayson Perry who isn’t trying too hard to impress, is impressive – witty, imaginative and full of ideas. With gems such as this, it becomes clear that the problem with his tapestries and pots is that they are over-engineered. Grayson has to try harder than ever now to shock his audience, and a man in a dress just doesn’t do it anymore (we’ve evolved a bit past that). The nature of popularity and the mainstream are intrinsically questioned throughout this exhibition. But what does this mean for Grayson, the great attention seeker himself? Lest we forget, Grayson is represented by Victoria Miro…. it costs a lot of money to be socially and politically aware.
The institution of marriage comes under fire in a ridiculously staged photo with equally ridiculous shrine. I like it a lot. Mr and Mrs Perry stand holding hands amongst the dying flowers: it’s not hard to read into, and it doesn’t have to be. A mini shrine is available in the Serpentine Gallery’s gift shop.
I like the pots, I don’t love the pots. I like the tapestries, I don’t love the tapestries. They may have started out as ironically unfashionable, but they’ve lost that sense of irony. I love the big pink and blue motorbike “Patience” set in front of a backdrop of the famous Bavarian Neuschwanstein Castle up in the mountains, which doubles up as a shine to his teddy Alan Measles. The castle itself is modelled on a fairytale castle built by the ‘mad’ King Ludwig II. Eventually deemed unfit to rule, Ludwig acted out a childish and eccentric existence, caring only for medieval fantasy and his rumoured boyfriend, the composer Richard Wagner. Tales of gender bending and fantastical obsession seem a well chosen backdrop for the exhibition as a whole, and I don’t think it’s going too far to think that Grayson Perry sees himself as the eccentric King Ludwig II of the art world.