Grayson Perry, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman - A Layman's Point of View Posted Friday, 14th of October
6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012
at The British Museum
‘This is a memorial to all the anonymous craftsmen that over the centuries have fashioned the manmade wonders of the world… The craftsman’s anonymity I find especially resonant in an age of the celebrity artist.’
Grayson Perry RA, Turner Prize winner
The exhibition is set up to pay homage to what Grayson refers to as ‘The unknown Craftsmen’. These being men and presumably women who, in the past, have created great works of art, though, whose names will never be known. We travel on the journey via Perry’s meandering imagination. The lead guide, and Godhead of this adventure, appears to be his childhood companion and hero, Alan Measles. This is, to Perry an omnipresent lord of all he surveys, to us, just a moth eaten old teddy bear, probably from Woollies as was!
Perry has placed his own modern works amongst objects found in the collection of The British Museum. You will also find the conventional low light and ubiquitous solemn feel of any other exhibition of ancient artefacts one might see, and at a distance, you cannot differentiate his works from those of the museum. He makes no apology for this, he makes the most of this mix and match approach. It takes you by surprise because on closer inspection, you see Perry’s unique style in pottery, sculpture and tapestry. He has a crisp, keen eye and a rapier wit in his work, though still maintaining an intellect and insight which makes one take it all the more seriously.
As you move though the exhibition you are taken transported (by the hand?) by Perry and Alan and you can’t help being warmed by the whole experience. A particular favourite part for me is where Perry studies the concepts of pilgrimage in ancient and modern terms. It all sounds turgid and dull as I type though being in amongst it was fantastic.
His craftsmanship is second to none too. No doubt, machines do the tight stitches on the tapestries though the designs, the pots and so on are all created by Perry. You can see his touch. You can feel every bit of what he has presented he has cared for and thought deeply about.
Perry encourages us to take a new look at the ‘old’ objects. He reminds us of their relevance to us today. So maybe we should think again about dashing over to the White Cube to nuzzle up to the bright young things? All pickles and installations. Because as Perry says ‘Everything in the British museum was contemporary once’.
See! It can be done. A review on Grayson Perry without saying the ‘T’ word!
(020 7323 8181, britishmuseum.org)
until February 19, 2012. Open Sat-Thurs, 10am-5.30pm; Fri 10am-8.30pm. Admission £10 (concs available).