30 May 2012

The far side of Grayson Perry RA

RA is the Royal Academy of Arts Magazine and the Summer 2012 issue has just arrived:

I like Grayson Perry (as I explained in a post about his British Museum exhibition) and I thought his cover for RA was quite amusing. It was described inside:
Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry RA is famous for his wonderful pots which combine dazzling visual exuberance and dramatic physical presence with imagery that reveals a sharp social observation. For our summer cover he has drawn a special Summer Exhibition pot, bulging inside with the show's goodies, while offering on the outside a gently teasing vision of its supposedly Waitrose-shopping, Radio 4-listening, National Trust-supporting audience.
Although I’m not a great fan of the RA Summer Exhibition or BBC1’s Antiques Roadshow, I’m afraid that my household has to put ticks of varying thicknesses, rather than crosses, in all the other ‘boxes’ (including the NT) except for The Proms. This issue of RA is launching a new opinion column with a contribution from Perry, No accounting for taste, on the class basis of aesthetics. As he points out:
In Britain, the most pervasive influence on the things we buy and do is social class.
He goes on to observe that the bedrock notion of middle-class taste is restraint and that:
I think this buttoned-up refinement can be seen in some of my favourite paintings. Someone once described modern British art as 'tightrope walking six inches off the ground'. I interpret this as an observation that British artists such as Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, Ben Nicholson, even Francis Bacon with his glazed gold frames, did a polite, drawing-room-friendly version of Modernism, unlike those garish shouty foreigners with their cafĂ© philosophy and angry politics. The shrine to this tasteful notion of bohemia must surely be Charleston in Sussex, the exquisitely faded farmhouse plavground of the Bloomsbury group …
Oh dear, more ticks: Ravilious and Nicholson have appeared in posts here, as would have Nash and Bacon if the opportunity had arisen – and I have been a supporter of the Charleston Trust for over 20 years …

So, just as people used to speculate about the once unseen far side of the moon, what would there have been on the far side of Perry’s RA pot, if it had been made, not just drawn? Well here are some suggestions for additional middle-class, Summer Exhibition-goers preferences in 2012:

The Dordogne
Volvo for sure at one time, but perhaps BMW or Audi now
The Killing or, better, Forbrydelsen
The Duchess of Cambridge
Ikea (mentioned in the article but not on the pot)
A trio of ’national treasures’: Alan Bennett, David Attenborough and Tony Benn
Most but probably not all of GAMA - Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple
Emma Bridgewater
Paul Smith (added 1 June)

I will add more if I can think of them, but coontributions are, as always, welcome.

On 5 June Perry is starting a three-part Channel 4 series, In the Best Possible Taste, based on talking to people from some of the tribes that make up modern British society that he came across in Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells, and the Cotswolds. The last of these is mostly located in South West England, of course. If it seems appropriate I will comment here on the series and also on his related exhibition, The Vanity of Small Differences, at the Victoria Miro Gallery, if I get to it.

Addendum 8 June

I should have known better than to try to be clever where Perry is concerned.  His Victoria Miro show includes the original, RA Pot, for the RA cover, and also a companion piece, Tate Pot, (left) for the Tate incorporating another 14 favoured brands. Assuming that there isn’t much to differentiate the taste of Summer Exhibition goers and Tate supporters, it’s a fair conclusion that the Tate pot is in effect the far side of the RA one. Well, I got three right: Apple, Amazon and Ikea. And what is a MINI if not a BMW? But I’m kicking myself about Pret A Manger.

I will post soon about The Vanity of Small Differences and the TV series, but in the meantime I recommend anyone interested in Perry’s work to make the trip to Victoria Miro 14 in Wharf Road, N1 to see Perry's six large tapestries and some new pots.

If, like me, you don’t aspire to the use of taxis, a 43 bus works fine: get out at Windsor Terrace, aim for the back of McDonald’s (not to be found on either pot ...) and look out for the Victoria Miro banner.


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along.Thanks

    Offer Waterman & Co.

  2. I hope you continue to find it interesting. Now following you on Twitter.