Playing to the Gallery – Grayson Perry

Playing to the Gallery is a book written by British contemporary artist Grayson Perry on contemporary art and the contemporary art world. I found the book at a charity, and as soon as I saw it, I thought it would be great for my art reading project. I was not wrong. I think Grayson Perry should be read by all young artists and people who have not yet discovered whether they are artists or not.


Playing to the Gallery tries to explain contemporary art by including galleries, artists, society, collectors, curators and much more. I say try to explain because when the book is finished, you cannot develop an idea of ​​what exactly contemporary art is. Still, you have a solid idea of ​​how things work in the contemporary art world thanks toPlaying to the Gallery.

Playing to the Gallery - Grayson Perry

What do we call art? Why do some become art and some do not? Why do galleries exhibit the works of some artists and not (can’t) accept others? Grayson Perry answers these questions engagingly and funnily inPlaying to the Gallery. He wrote the book so nicely that I felt like I was chatting with him, which is not something I usually encounter in art books. I recommendPlaying to the Gallery if you are interested in contemporary art or want to know more or less about what is going on. Enjoy!

Playing to the Gallery - Grayson Perry

Playing to the Gallery

Playing to the Gallery: ‘It’s easy to feel insecure around art and its appreciation, as though we cannot enjoy certain artworks if we don’t have a lot of academic and historical knowledge. But if there’s one message that I want you to take away it’s that anybody can enjoy art and anybody can have a life in the arts – even me! For even I, an Essex transvestite potter, have been let in by the artworld mafia.’

Now Grayson Perry is a fully paid-up member of the art establishment, he wants to show that any of us can appreciate art (after all, there is a reason he’s called this book ‘Playing to the Gallery’ and not ‘Sucking up to an Academic Elite’.) Based on his hugely popular Reith Lectures and full of words and pictures, this funny, personal journey through the art world answers the basic questions that might occur to us in an art gallery but seem too embarrassing to ask.Playing to the Gallery has questions such as:

What is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ art – and does it even matter? Is there any way to test if something is art, other than a large group of people standing around looking at it? Is art still capable of shocking us or have we seen it all before? Can you be a ‘lovable character’ and a serious artist – what is a serious artist anyway? And what happens if you place a piece of art in a rubbish dump?Playing to the Gallery has the answers.

Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry, (born March 24, 1960, Chelmsford, Essex, England), British potter who embedded in his work images of violence and other disturbing social issues.

Perry was born into a working-class family, and his interest in ceramics was kindled during childhood. By age 13 he had confided his transvestism to his diary. He studied at the Braintree College of Further Education in Essex and at Portsmouth Polytechnic in Hampshire, but it was not until the early 1980s, when he was living in a squatters’ community in London’s Camden Town, that he returned to the serious study of ceramics by way of evening art classes.

At the time, he was appearing in performance pieces and art films and nursing his own aspirations as a filmmaker. He disliked the compromising and collaborating that he felt went hand in hand with filmmaking, however, and when in 1984 the first solo exhibition of his ceramic works—all created in his evening classes—sold well, he made pottery his main art form, though he continued to work in other media. From the 1990s Perry also worked in embroidery, creating such pieces as Mother of All Battles (1996), a woman’s folk costume stitched with ethnic symbols and images of weapons and killings, and Claire’s Coming Out Dress (2000). Perry was also the author of a novel, Cycle of Violence (1992).

Playing to the Gallery - Grayson Perry
Perry dressed as Claire, promoting a 2017 exhibition

Perry achieved celebrity status in 2003 when he won the Turner Prize, one of the art world’s premier honours. His receipt of the award strirred some controversy, not only because he was the first potter to win the prize but also because of his tendency to appear in public as a cross-dresser, frequently as his alter ego, Claire, and often accompanied by his wife and daughter. In 2004 Perry mounted a solo exhibition at the Tate St. Ives museum of modern and contemporary art in Cornwall.

The exhibition featured his classically shaped vases, the colourful surfaces of which served as a seductive camouflage for inscribed images and messages that were distinctly at odds with their decorative medium. Domestic violence, child abuse, pedophilia, and cultural stereotypes were some of the troubling themes that the artist habitually explored in these inscriptions. Perry acknowledged his exploitation of the decorative appeal of his pots, describing them as a “guerrilla tactic” under the cover of which “a polemic or an ideology” waited to be discovered. I Want to Be an Artist (1996), the first of his vases to be sold at auction, fetched £36,000, more than twice the presale estimate.

In the midst of such attention, Great Britain’s Channel 4 commissioned Perry to make a television documentary about transvestism. The result, Why Men Wear Frocks, aired in 2005. The following year he published an autobiography, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl. Perry subsequently mounted solo exhibitions at major museums on several continents, including the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh (2006), the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan (2007), and the MUDAM (Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean) in Luxembourg (2008).

For The Walthamstow Tapestry (2009), a textile work that scrolled 49 feet (15 metres) across a gallery wall, Perry arranged a series of detailed images—decoratively inspired by traditional Sumatran batiks but replete with references to contemporary consumer culture—into a sweeping narrative of a human life. In 2013 he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).Playing to the Gallery is his most read book.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

Books about Art and Artists

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