The Grayson Perry tapestry exhibition, which is scheduled to open in Leeds, at Temple Newsam House, on Saturday, is under attack from eight disabled artists, who claim that the exhibition is inaccessible to disabled visitors.
The artists have now organised an alternative exhibition by staging their own. The new exhibition titled, ‘The Reality of Small Differences’ is set to open at the Union 105 and Inkwell Arts venues on Saturday conflicting with Perry’s unveiling of six large tapestries at Temple Newsam House.
The exhibition is of textile art, which makes a clear link to Grayson Perry’s tapestries and is bold, eclectic and challenging. The exhibition includes a wide range of techniques and materials: woven, felted, knitted, printed, patchwork, dyed and stitched artworks.
Artists taking part in the exhibition say:
“Heritage trumps access all too often.” “Physical exclusion and the façade of access imply that disabled people don’t matter to arts organisations. No amount of interpretations or downloadable activity packs will make up for not being to get inside to see the work in situ.” – Katya Robin “We do not like being excluded from the cultural events of our city and want to celebrate our colourful creativity.” – Pyramid of Arts’ Eden Group “Small differences can have a huge impact on daily reality. I hope the exhibition will encourage people to think and then make small differences in their own lives which will have a positive impact for others as well as themselves.” – Carrie Scott-Huby
Perry Exhibition Organiser Gill Crawshaw told the BBC: “You might be putting the tapestries on in an ancient building, but you shouldn’t be thinking in an ancient way.”The historic venue is owned by Leeds City Council, which admitted the accessibility was “not what we would wish it to be”.
“The main aim of the exhibition at first was a protest and to make a statement and say this is an outrageous decision to put the tapestries there. “We wanted to highlight that that was discriminating against disabled people. “However, it’s become something in its own right because disabled people are doing fantastic work and there are loads of artists out there making interesting work.”
Leeds City Council explained: “Temple Newsam House is, by its nature, one of our most difficult venues in which to implement accessibility measures. “Leeds Museums and Galleries will continue to strive to do all we can to ensure exhibitions and works can be enjoyed by as many people as possible, irrespective of their personal circumstances.”
‘Insult to injury’ One of the six tapestries is in a fully accessible gallery and the venue has bought a “stair climber to improve access for wheelchair users and people with limited mobility”, the council said. Ms Crawshaw added: “It adds insult to injury doesn’t it? An app or watching a video that’s already been on television anyway is nowhere near the same experience as getting to see the tapestries themselves.” Ms Crawshaw said she had invited Perry to visit their exhibition. “I understand he’s away,” she said. “I do think he would approve, actually, of what we’re doing, and I do think he would enjoy the artwork we’ve got on show.”
The exhibition is free and open to everyone, in two wheelchair accessible venues in Leeds 7. It opens on the same day as the exhibition of Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry’s tapestries at Temple Newsam.