Grayson Perry tour to start in Sunderland

Grayson Perry with tapestry of The Upper Class at Bay, 2012

The massive tapestries created by Grayson Perry and inspired by the recent Channel 4 series All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry are to go on a national and international tour led by the Arts Council Collection and British Council, kick-starting here at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens in summer 2013.

The Vanity of Small Differences begins its UK tour in Sunderland; the artist visited Sunderland last year and based the subject matter for his first two tapestries The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park on the places and characters he found there.

The exhibition tells the story of class mobility and the influence social class has on our aesthetic taste.

Jo Cunningham, Manager of Sunderland Museums, said:

We are delighted to be chosen as the first venue on the UK tour.

“The fact that the tapestries will be accessible to the very people who inspired the work is fantastic and we’re excited to find out how our visitors will respond to them.

“A huge thank you to the artist, the Arts Council, British Council and partners for the opportunity to be involved in this – it will definitely be a highlight of the Festival of the North East next June.”‘ 

The Vanity of Small Differences, consisting of six 2m x 4m woven scenes is the first ever joint acquisition of the The Arts Council Collection and British Council, and was supported by Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund, and Sfumato Foundation.

The gift is a significant act of philanthropy on behalf of the artist and partners involved, and recognises the unique domestic and international reach of these two great national Collections.

Speaking today Grayson Perry said:

“I am hugely pleased and proud that The Vanity of Small Differences will be shared by the Arts Council and British Council Collections because this means the work will be able to travel all around the country and the world.

“Thanks also to the Art Fund, Sfumato Foundation and Channel 4; their support means the tapestries now have a chance to reach a very wide and varied audience.

“Of all the pieces I have made this was the one I conceived from the outset as a public artwork. I hope that wherever it goes it not only delights the eye but also sparks debate about class, taste and British society.”

The exhibition, which will run until the end of September 2013, is part of the Festival of the North East which celebrates the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham Cathedral next summer.

Cllr John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture at Sunderland City Council, said:

 “We are absolutely delighted that Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens is to be the first venue on the national tour of the Tapestries, particularly at a time when creativity is being acknowledged and celebrated here in the North East.

“The opportunity to see great art in familiar surroundings together with the fact that something of this City's people and character has been captured by Grayson Perry whose work is then being acquired for the nation is really very special.”

Inspired by William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress the six tapestries, measuring 2m x 4m each, chart the “class journey” made by young Tim Rakewell and include many of the characters, incidents and objects Grayson Perry encountered on journeys through Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and The Cotswolds for the television series All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry.

The television programmes were first aired on Channel 4 in June 2012. In the series Perry goes “on a safari amongst the taste tribes of Britain”, to gather inspiration for his artwork, literally weaving the characters he meets into a narrative, with an attention to the minutiae of contemporary taste every bit as acute as that in Hogarth’s 18th century paintings.

The Arts Council Collection and the British Council Collection work to maximise opportunities for British artists and arts institutions in the UK and overseas, and this collaboration gives the widest possible audience a chance to see this significant work.