“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 art world mafia.” – Grayson Perry
After writing about some heavy stuff – mostly feminism and politics (my two favs) – I thought it would be nice to write something about the most hilarious art(ist?) book I’ve read in the past year. Grayson Perry’s playing the gallery is not only informative about the workings of the contemporary art scene, it provides some serious knee-slapping moments.
Perry himself is an artist and is the winner of the extremely prestige Turner Prize in 2003. He works in the medium of pottery which is great of course because of the ability to subvert gender role patterns, by simply rejecting to dress according to the restricted gender-based rules. His work is nicely captured by the magazine Ceramic Review as “shock art on a pot.”
So about the book, it’s based on his BBC radio series which he delivered as his female alter-ego, Claire. He outlines so many questions we all ask ourselves when we are engaging with art. How can we call art or an artist ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – who decides? And does it make any sense? Why is it art? What is an artist? With his remarkable funny voice, he reveals the discrepancies in the art world. Dealers, collectors, money/capitalism(bluhhh) – you know, the dirty stuff – and art. Don’t be oblivious to the connections. I know it’s no picnic when you find out that the art world is pretty lousy at times, but bow down and praise Perry for his ability to reveal it all in such an accessible and funny way. Because what good is an artistic critique of society, sexism, racism, and classism if a big part of society doesn’t have a single clue what you’re getting at? Solely amusement for the intellectual few? Or when the explanation of these kinds of artworks or art world is so depressing and discouraging that you close the book and never set a foot inside an arts institution again? Exactly, nothing. Plus the hilarious, childlike drawings that enforce his argument about the stupid stuff within the art world, are like a consistent appearing slapstick.
I’m not going to spoil all the good stuff, just read it yourself (it’s only 135 pages).