Grayson Perry curates: Unpopular culture (2008)

Grayson Perry curates: UNPOPULAR CULTURE

Grayson Perry selects from the Arts Council Collection
Organised by Arts Council Collection and Hayward Touring
10 May - 6 July 2008
Tour starts at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, England

Press release text by Hayward Gallery, London

Grayson Perry was catapulted into the public consciousness in 2003 when he won the Turner Prize for his delicate coil pots adorned with drawings and text suggesting a range of subject matter. Perhaps less well-known is Perry’s work as a curator. Unpopular Culture highlights this aspect of Perry’s practice and offers his personal view of the Arts Council Collection: one of the foremost national collections of British post-war art, with over 7,500 works. The show includes works by; Kenneth Armitage; Frank Auerbach; Ian Berry; Anthony Caro; Lynn Chadwick; Barbara Hepworth; L.S. Lowry; Henry Moore, Paul Nash; Eduardo Paolozzi; Martin Parr; Tony Ray-Jones and Homer Sykes as well as two striking new works by Grayson Perry himself. It opens at De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea before embarking on a national tour.

Unpopular Culture examines a period in history which Grayson Perry argues was “before British Art became fashionable”. The exhibition of more than 70 works by 50 artists encompasses a variety of media, figurative painting, bronze sculpture and documentary photography. Spanning the era from the 1940s to Thatcherite Britain of the 1980s, the selection epitomises a time when we as a nation had a different sense of self, one less defined by the modern-day interventions of television, mass media and digital communications.

Grayson Perry said: “The first time I trawled through the catalogues of the Collection I was drawn to these three distinct categories of art, which are bound together both by the period of their inception and their ineffable sense of mood; subtle, sensitive, lyrical and quiet in contrast to today when much art can seem like shouty advertisements for concepts or personalities. I also felt a need to confront the hackneyed version of the recent past that is the default mode of the nostalgia industry. Take the swinging sixties— this psychedelic, mini-driving, mini-skirt wearing, Beatles-loving supposed glory age which I suspect was really only enjoyed by a minority. This exhibition shows another side.”

Caroline Douglas, Head of Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre said: “We are delighted Grayson Perry agreed to select works from the Arts Council Collection to create this fascinating touring show. Unpopular Culture is the next chapter in a long history of working with artists in this capacity, whose unique vantage point as both practitioner and curator ensure critical and insightful selections. Grayson’s choices are not anchored to a period in art history, rather they span the time in which he and his parents grew up. The works on show reflect this personal narrative.”

For his selection, Grayson Perry gravitated towards those painters and photographers whose work was an honest reflection of British life and society. The lyricism and rigour of painters Paul Nash, Elinor Bellingham-Smith and Victor Pasmore are keenly juxtaposed with the frivolity and celebration of the beauty contests, seaside trips and Pearly Kings and Queens immortalised in the photographs of David Hurn, Tony Ray-Jones and Patrick Ward.

Grayson Perry was drawn to the Collection’s holdings of bronze sculpture because of its archetypal nature, representing craftsmanship and the epitome of all that is thought of as art. The selection includes the cast bronzes of Henry Moore, Antony Caro and Kenneth Armitage, the polished abstraction of Barbara Hepworth and the linear, spiky forms of Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi, Elisabeth Frink and Meg Rutherford.


Exhibiting Artists: Michael Andrews; Kenneth Armitage; Frank Auerbach; Gerry Badger; Clive Barker; Elinor Bellingham-Smith; John Benton-Harris; Ian Berry; John Bratby; Edward Burra; Anthony Caro; Lynn Chadwick; Robert Colquhoun; Elisabeth Frink; Duncan Grant; Bert Hardy; Anthony Hatwell; David Hepher; Barbara Hepworth; Thurston Hopkins; David Hurn; Bryan Kneale; Margaret Lovell; Alan Lowndes; L.S. Lowry; Henry Moore; Francis Morland; Tish Murtha; John Myers; Paul Nash; Eduardo Paolozzi; Martin Parr; Victor Pasmore; Christine Pearcey; Edwin Pickett; John Piper; Tony Ray-Jones; Alan Reynolds; Brian Robb; William Roberts; George Rodger; Leonard Rosoman; Meg Rutherford; William Scott; Jack Smith; Ruskin Spear; Homer Sykes; William Turnbull; Patrick Ward; Carel Weight; John Wragg; Bryan Wynter.


Biography - Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry was born in Chelmsford in 1960. He studied at Braintree College of Further Education and received a BA in Fine Art from the Portsmouth Polytechnic. In the early 1980s Perry was a member of the Neo-Naturist group, and took part in performance and film works. He has continued to create work in a variety of media that includes embroidery and photography and is best known for his ceramic works. Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003. His exhibitions include solo presentations at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, USA, 2006; and Galeria Il Capricorno, Venice 2004. His group exhibitions include A Secret History of Clay from Gauguin to Gormley, Tate Liverpool, 2004; Collection Intervention, Tate St. Ives, St. Ives, 2004; Guerilla Tactics, Barbican Art Gallery, London, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2002. In 2006, Grayson Perry curated The Charms of Lincolnshire a critically aclaimed exhibition of historical artefacts selected by the artist from the Museums of Lincolnshire. After opening at The Collection in Lincoln in February 2006, the show then toured to the Victoria Miro Gallery in London in July 2006.


Touring information:
19 July - 14 September: Preston, Harris Museum and Art Gallery
15 November 2008 - 4 January 2009: Durham, DLI Museum and Art Gallery
17 January - 15 March: Southampton City Art Gallery
21 March - 10 May: Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth Arts Centre
16 May - 5 July: Scarborough, Scarborough Art Gallery
18 July – 25 October: Wakefield, Longside Gallery
7 November – 3 January 2010: Bath, Victoria Art Gallery