Grayson Perry is one of the best-known contemporary artists in the U.K, a documentary filmmaker and often a walking work of art. His exhibition “Vanity, Identity, Sexuality” at the Monnaie de Paris gives an overview of his art, which questions British society and politics, and male identity. As well as his original speciality, ceramics, it features tapestries, and the extraordinary dresses he wears when he appears as his alter-ego Claire.
Perry first came to the attention of the general public when he won the 2003 Turner Prize for contemporary art. He decided to mark the occasion by turning up at the prize ceremony dressed as Claire. He started wearing his sister’s ballet clothes as a teenager in reaction to difficult family circumstances. He describes wearing women’s clothes as giving him access to expressing emotions that as a British man he had been encouraged to repress.He says, “In many ways I had a normal childhood, i.e. a bit of divorce, a little bit of low-grade mental illness, bit of violence. Loads of people living in Britain today have that.”
Another hangover of that childhood is a strong attachment to his teddy bear, Alan Measles, who appears in many of his works.
His wife, Philippa, is a psychotherapist, and they have a 26-year-old daughter. Their first date was to a transvestite club.
Grayson Perry came late to ceramics. After finishing art school in the 1980s and struggling to make a living, a friend suggested pottery was a good way to “keep your hand in” artistically, and was relatively cheap in terms of materials. His “pots” as he calls them are, like the rest of his art, both narrative and autobiographical, often taking on difficult social subjects that contrast with the beauty of the objects.
Perry has made several documentary series, exploring the question of masculinity in All Man, and modern Britain in Rites of Passage and Divided Britain. He was invited to give the prestigious BBC Reith Lectures in 2013.
He was given the honour of curating the Royal Academy of the Arts’ Summer Exhibition for its 250th anniversary in 2018. This video of him presenting the exhibition gives a good introduction to his style.
Grayson Perry: Vanité, Identité, Sexualité
Till 13 February 2019
Monnaie de Paris
Artworks: © Grayson Perry Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice
Photos of the exhibition: Monnaie de Paris / Martin Argyroglo