Grayson Perry: My Pretty Little Art Career


of an Exhibition

by Nell Ustundag

Published on June 02, 2016, Modified on June 05, 2016

  • Description:

    In October 2015, prior to this show opening, Grayson Perry made what he later called ‘clumsy’ comments when he questioned whether Aboriginal painting should be considered contemporary art. The comments created a media storm and many of Australia’s experts, such as Professor Howard Morphy and curator Clothilde Bullen, quickly criticised Perry’s remarks, asserting that they showed a Eurocentric position and general lack of expertise and understanding of Aboriginal art or art history.

    As a result of this public spectacle, I walked into ‘My Pretty Little Art Career’ somewhat reluctantly; I work with Aboriginal art and artists and have done since 2003. I didn’t want to like this artist, someone with such little understanding of the art and artists at the centre of my world. Yet, it took no time at all for me to forgive him for his comments and fall in love. This show, expertly curated and mounted by the Rachel Kent and the other staff at the MCA Australia, took my breath away. The show is Perry’s largest to date and includes ceramics, sculptures, works on paper and tapestries and spans over 30 years of his career. The individual pieces are absolutely incredible and together they show the breadth and depth of Perry’s skill and passion.

    The works are certainly decorative, yet they also comment on serious subject matter from class and high vs low culture, to sexuality, identity, psychology and religion. The layering of common form, such as the vase, with complex subjects portrayed via figurative decoration, creates immediate affect; this show informed, entertained and moved me.

    I found time to sit and reflect in one room, where a time-lapse video of Perry making one of the large ceramic pieces on display was being projected on a wall. The projection was an engaging display component – one that allowed respite whilst also conveying the intimacy of the ceramic endeavour.

    In the video ‘BlouinArtinfo interview with Grayson Perry at MCA, December 2015’, available on the exhibition website, Perry states that he hopes visitors will ‘revel in the visual spectacle in it’. I walked into this exhibition a sceptic and walked out a devotee. The art and subject matter both entertained me and brought me to tears. I would say this exhibition was an outstanding success.

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