Grayson Perry is presenting a new exhibition of portraits titled ‘Who Are You?’ (25 October 2014-15 March 2015) at the National Portrait Gallery. The14 portraits of individuals, families and groups will be placed within the Gallery’s nineteenth and twentieth-century Collection displays, including a self portrait and a major new tapestry.
Politician Chris Huhne, a young female-to-male transsexual, Northern Ireland Loyalist marchers, and X-Factor and Celebrity Big Brother contestant Rylan Clark are among the subjects of a new display by Grayson Perry, to open at the National Portrait Gallery this autumn, and to be featured on his new Channel 4 series. The portrait of Huhne, whom Perry visited on the day of his release from prison, will be seen alongside those of deaf parents, a Muslim convert and a couple living withAlzheimers in the display in a variety of media by the Turner Prize-winning artist and BAFTA Award-winning broadcaster.
The new portraits have resulted from the artist’s new Channel 4 series, Who Are You?, three sixty-minute films to be broadcast at the time of opening, in which Grayson Perry turns his attention to portraiture and British identity.
In each film Grayson spends time with Britons facing a moment in their lives in which they need to define who they are, and then distils his impressions of this into a portrait. Some of the sitters have become miniatures, some large tapestries, others statues and pots.
Viewers will be able to follow the developing relationship between artist and subjects during the sittings and in the climactic scene of each film they will see the reaction of the sitters as they catch their first glimpse of themselves through Grayson’s eyes.
The films and display coincide with the publication of Grayson Perry’s new book Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to be Understood published in the autumn by Penguin.
Grayson Perry says: ‘I have always been interested in the things we tend not to think about or take for granted, like our sense of aesthetic taste. In this show I investigate our slippery sense of who we feel we are. Identity seems to be something that is only an issue when it is threatened or problematic in some way. I have chosen as my subjectsindividuals, families or groups who are in situations that highlight certain aspects of being human. I am hoping that they will throw some light on experiences that we all share. With the artworks I have made I have attempted to portray the identity narrative of the subjects, the ongoing process of ‘being ourselves’.
Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Grayson Perry makes fascinating and provocative works, and these brilliantly unconventional portraits will sit alongside the National Portrait Gallery’s collection as part of an excellent collaboration with Channel 4.’
John Hay, Commissioning Editor, Arts for Channel 4, says: ‘No-one can diagnose the British quite like Grayson, and these new programmes take his investigations in a deeper and more personal direction. We’re delighted to be collaborating with the National Portrait Gallery on his return to our screens, and excited that these fantastic new works will be on display in some of their grandest galleries.’
Sarah Wyse, Head of Marketing at Coutts, says: ‘Continuing our rich tradition of creative arts sponsorships, Coutts is delighted to be headline sponsor of Grayson Perry: Who Are You? at the National Portrait Gallery. Our partnership with one of Britain’s most established art institutions showcasing a cutting edge British-based artist, demonstrates our commitment to championing the British creative industries. Having built a deep understanding of the creative world, Coutts is delighted to support emerging and established British talent in the heart of London.’
Winner of the 2003 Turner prize, Grayson Perry is one of Britain’s best-known contemporary artists. He works with traditional media; ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry and is interested in how each historic category of object accrues over time’s intellectual and emotional baggage.
Perry is a great chronicler of contemporary life, drawing viewers in with beauty, wit, affecting sentiment and nostalgia as well as fear and anger. His hard-hitting and exquisitely crafted works reference his own childhood and life as a transvestite while also engaging with wider social issues from class and politics to sex and religion.
Grayson Perry has had major solo exhibitions nationally and internationally including the critically acclaimed Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum. His monumental suite of tapestries The Vanity of Small Differences, which were inspired by his BAFTA winning Channel 4 series: In the Best Possible Taste, are currently on a national and international tour led by the Arts Council Collection and British Council. In June 2013 Perry was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Grayson Perry is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery, London.
Photo: Grayson Perry Photo: Penguin Books © Jochen Braun