“Perry’s abiding interest in his audience informs his choice of universally human subjects. Working in a variety of traditional media such as ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry, Perry is best known for his ability to combine delicately crafted objects with scenes of contemporary life. His subject matter is drawn from his own childhood and life as a transvestite, as well as wider social issues ranging from class and politics to sex and religion.
Taking place during the Serpentine’s popular summer season, when the parks enjoy hugely increased local and international audiences, The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!, tackles one of Perry’s central concerns: how contemporary art can best address a diverse cross section of society.”
The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever is the new addition to the Serpentine Gallery from Grayson Perry. In true Perry style, the exhibition explores popularity and art, masculinity, and the current cultural and political landscape of Britain. After a visit this month, I can see why it’s the most popular art exhibition ever.
I’ve not always known about Grayson Perry, and the importance of his work didn’t really occur to me until I saw his political tapestries on display at the Manchester Art Gallery a couple of years ago, and later at the Tate Modern more recently. Both tapestries, from what I can remember, were satirical maps of British society, highlighting both the divisions and similarities in groups. One of Grayson Perry’s infamous pots was also recently part of a LGBT trail at the Brighton Museum, which I blogged about last year. Pretty much, all of the times I’ve seen Grayson Perry’s work, it’s been part of a wider collection. Visiting The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever was an insight into Perry’s work, concentrated into a small space; as The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, that small space was full of people.
The audience to the exhibition was as lively as the objects, full and loud, discussing the pieces in both their visual and contextual importance. Each piece had something to be said about it, accessible to everyone (or at least everyone in the room) conversations were brimming in the crowded space. Themes of Brexit, class, media, and immigration are always going to open up some debates, even amongst strangers.
As well as opening up debate, the pieces are also visually brilliant. One piece of tapestry, pottery or whichever medium Perry had chose sucks you in to it for a long time. Attention to detail, and making each intricate detail beautiful is what Perry does best. I think this is what is missed when a Grayson Perry piece is displayed as part of a larger collection of other artists. Visiting The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, you know you’re going to see a Grayson Perry work and you know you’ll need to take the time to look at each pieces detail. When a Grayson Perry piece is part of a larger collection, it can get lost. A visit to the Tate takes hours already, spending the 5 minutes (at least) that you need to see one piece isn’t often spent.
The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever deserves to be The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, it certainly felt like it when I was there.
Grayson Perry, Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens London W2 3XA, open 8 Jun 2017 to 10 Sep 2017.