The Ultimate Guide to Grayson Perry: A-Z Facts

Rebecca Barry
written by Rebecca Barry,
Date of publication19 Mar 2024
Last updated19 Mar 2024
Grayson Perry's Royal Academy postage stamp design, on which Perry's alter-ego Claire is depicted as a statue, standing amongst the brightly coloured artworks and pink walls of the Royal Academy Summer ExhibitionRoyal Academy Stamp © Grayson Perry 2018
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Grayson Perry is a renowned British artist, known for his politically charged and playful artworks which comment on the contemporary arts scene and British culture more widely. Through a variety of mediums - including ceramics, tapestry, self-fashioning and film - Perry has become a household name. Here is an A-Z list of facts about the artist:

A is for Alter-ego

Perry's alter-ego, Claire, is a cornerstone of his creative and personal exploration. Since childhood, Perry has used cross-dressing as a form of escapism, culminating in the development of Claire, a flamboyant, provocative and eccentrically styled persona. Claire is an integral part of Perry's public appearances and artworks, embodying his critique and exploration of gender norms. Although Claire is often dressed in outfits designed by Perry himself, some of her outfits are created through competitions for fashion students at Central Saint Martins.

B is for Braintree College

Perry embarked on his artistic career at Braintree College of Further Education, where he attended an art foundation course from 1978-79. This period marked the initial phase of his formal education in the arts, setting the foundation for his distinguished career. His experience at Braintree College was instrumental in developing Perry's early interest in various art forms, guiding him towards his subsequent multifaceted artistic practice.

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C is for Ceramics

Best known for his work in ceramics, Perry has used the medium to explore themes of identity, class, and consumerism. Perry's ceramics are distinguished by their detailed narrative scenes and rich iconography, merging the craft's historical associations with his critical perspective on modern life. Through this medium, Perry has redefined the boundaries between fine art and popular culture, earning him international acclaim.

D is for Documentary

Perry has significantly contributed to the documentary field, offering profound insights into contemporary art and society through his work. His series, including Grayson Perry: All Man and Grayson Perry: Who Are You?, delve into themes of masculinity, identity, and the social constructs that define our lives. Perry's documentaries are celebrated for their thoughtful exploration of the human condition, allowing audiences to engage with complex social issues through the lens of his artistry and personal experiences.

E is for Essex

Born in Chelmsford, Essex, in 1960, Perry's artistry is deeply embedded in this English county. Essex not only shaped his early life but also features prominently in his artworks. In 2014, Perry designed A House For Essex in collaboration with FAT Architecture. The house is an artwork in itself and an exhibition space for a number of works by Perry which explore the cultural narratives of the county.

F is for Fashion

Perry’s artistry extends into the fashion industry, through collaborations with designers and fashion houses. In 2022, Louis Vuitton was the title sponsor of Perry's exhibition at the British Museum, The Tomb of The Unknown Craftsman, outlining the artist’s significance in the fashion world. Additionally, Perry's installation for Louis Vuitton, which debuted to coincide with the exhibition at the luxury fashion brand’s New Bond Street Maison, showcases his ability to create conversations around craftsmanship and cultural critique through his collaborative endeavours.

G is for Graphic Novel

Perry's artistic journey is not confined to ceramics; he has also made significant contributions to graphic novels. One notable work, Cycle of Violence (1992), revisits Perry's early interest in comic strip storytelling, intertwining themes of adolescence, sexuality, and psychotherapy. This graphic novella, satirising psychotherapy and exploring the impact of childhood experiences, demonstrates Perry's diverse artistic expression and his ability to delve into complex psychological narratives through the medium of graphic novels.

H is for Hogarth

Perry's large-scale tapestry series, The Vanity of Small Differences, is deeply inspired by William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress series. Perry's series of six tapestries explore class mobility and the distinct influence of social class on aesthetic taste. The work is a visual narrative of the 'class journey' of Tim Rakewell, incorporating elements from Perry's observations across Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells, and The Cotswolds.

I is for Instagram

Under the handle @alanmeasles, Perry uses Instagram, showcasing his innovative approach to audience engagement. This handle, named after his childhood teddy bear, symbolises the blending of personal history with his public artist identity. Perry's presence on social media is a testament to his dynamic artistry, demonstrating how traditional forms of art can evolve through modern platforms to maintain a direct and meaningful connection with contemporary audiences.

J is for Julie Cope

Perry created the fictional character Julie Cope as an archetypal Essex woman, weaving her life story through art and narrative. The Essex House Tapestries: The Life of Julie Cope (2015) chronicles her journey from birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely demise in a Colchester accident. These tapestries, rich in cultural and architectural references, offer a vivid social commentary on Essex and modern Britain, making Julie's story universally resonant.

K is for Knighthood

In 2023, Perry was honoured with a knighthood, a recognition of his contributions to the arts. Perry received this accolade from Prince William at Windsor Castle, donning a burgundy taffeta dress for the ceremony, a choice inspired by the coronation of King Charles III. This moment underscored Perry's ongoing commitment to playfully challenging traditional norms, even in the most formal of contexts.

L is for Labour Party

Throughout his politically-charged career, Perry has openly supported the Labour Party, evidenced not only through his endorsement but also by creating artwork to aid fundraising efforts. In 2023, along with Olivia Colman and other creative figures, Perry championed Keir Starmer's initiative to foster greater creativity in schools. This advocacy aligns with Perry's belief in the transformative power of art and education, demonstrating his commitment to influencing public policy for the improved accessibility of the arts. Through his support, Perry emphasises the importance of integrating creative disciplines within educational systems to enrich student experiences and the industry more broadly.

M is for Maps

Perry's engagement with maps extends beyond their geographic significance, utilising them as a means to delve into themes of identity, the self, and the often-blurred lines between personal and communal spaces. His artistic fascination with cartography allows him to comment on how individuals and societies construct their identities and navigate the landscapes of belonging and exclusion. Through his work, Perry offers a perspective on the metaphysical power of maps, transforming them into narratives that reflect our inner and outer worlds.

N is for Neo Naturists

Perry was involved with the Neo Naturists, an art group that emerged in the early 1980s in London. Known for its avant-garde performances, the group embraced body painting and live art, focusing on the celebration of the human form in its natural state. Perry's participation in the Neo Naturists highlights his early engagement with performance art and body positivity, elements that have continued to influence his work throughout his career.

O is for Osprey

In 2019, Perry collaborated with Osprey to bring his characteristic wit and satirical social commentary into the realm of fashion. Together with Graeme Ellisdon, Perry designed a bespoke handbag featuring his maker’s marks and a satirical interior design that critiques political and economic themes. The handbag humorously combines luxury with political commentary, using motifs like “Vote Tory” and mentions of tax havens, juxtaposed with slogans like “Ethically Sourced”. The clasp, a priapic representation of Alan Measles, Perry's teddy bear, symbolises a playful yet pointed critique of masculinity.

P is for Portsmouth College of Art and Design

Following his art foundation course, Perry furthered his education at Portsmouth College of Art and Design (now the University of Portsmouth), where he pursued a BA in Fine Art, graduating in 1982. During this developmental period, he not only honed his craft but also began to establish his idiosyncratic artistic voice. His engagement with various mediums, including film and pottery, during these formative years, set the foundations for his future as a versatile and provocative artist.

Q is for Queer

In 2019, Perry's commitment to supporting the community was highlighted when he donated his Brexit-inspired sculpture, Retituted British Head, to the Terrence Higgins Trust. This gesture aimed to raise funds to support individuals living with HIV and those affected by poor sexual health, reflecting Perry's dedication to both artistic expression and advocacy within the LGBTQ+ community.

R is for Red Alan

Red Alan was created by Perry as a ceramic representation of Perry's childhood teddy bear, Alan Measles. This character, specifically designed for the Royal Academy of Arts, embodies a manifesto addressing pivotal art world debates such as the nature of art, the criteria for its evaluation, and the influence of democracy on taste. These inquiries echo Perry's own contemplations from his 2013 Reith lectures, illustrating how Red Alan continues Perry's exploration of identity through various personas in his work.

S is for Salisbury Cathedral

In the summer of 2022, Salisbury Cathedral became a remarkable backdrop for Perry's The Vanity of Small Differences, a series of six grand tapestries. Measuring four metres by two metres each, these vibrant works adorned the nave's walls, marking the first ecclesiastical setting for this exhibition. The tapestries, exploring themes of British social landscape and class mobility, provided a striking contrast with the cathedral's setting, illustrating Perry’s dynamic influential position.

T is for Turner Prize

In 2003, Perry was awarded the Turner Prize, a prestigious accolade that came with a £20,000 prize, presented by the renowned artist Sir Peter Blake. The judges commended Perry for his innovative use of ceramics and drawing to address deeply personal and societal themes, showcasing his skillful engagement with traditional art forms to explore and critique contemporary issues.

U is for University of the Arts London (UAL)

From 2015-23, Perry served as Chancellor at UAL. Throughout his tenure and even before, Perry was a fervent supporter of the university, particularly engaging with the students and alumni of Central Saint Martins. His collaboration with the institution highlights his dedication to fostering new talent and his prominence in the arts education community.

V is for Vase

Perry's vases exhibit extraordinary craftsmanship, featuring surfaces enriched with meticulously incised designs and adorned using complex glazing and photo-transfer techniques. These processes contribute to their rich textures, making Perry's vases not only vessels for artistic expression but also intricately detailed works of ceramic art.

“I'm not an innovator, ceramic-wise. I use very traditional forms, techniques and it's merely the carrier of the message. That's how I want to keep it. But I'm always aware that it's a pot. It's not like I take it for granted. I'm always aware that I'm working on a vase and what that means.”
Grayson Perry

X is for X (formally Twitter)

Perry also engages with his audience through X, playfully referencing his characterisation of childhood teddy bear through his handle @Alan_Measles. This platform allows him to share insights into his work, personal reflections, and engage in broader cultural and societal discussions. Through @Alan_Measles, Perry continues to build a connection with his followers, offering a personable extension of the social commentary which permeates his artworks.

Y is for Yoga Mat

In 2019, Perry produced an edition of one thousand yoga mats, which reflects on the shift towards post-materialist consumption. Perry critiques how status symbols have evolved, highlighting that the contemporary markers of an individual's ethical and moral stance, such as carrying eco-friendly items or advertising progressive causes, have become the new luxury. Through this piece, Perry observes how personal well-being and social consciousness have merged into public displays of virtue, likening the yoga mat to a modern-day prayer mat for the anxious upper middle classes.

Z is for Zeal

Perry's work, from his vivid tapestries to engaging social media presence, showcases his zeal for exploring deeply personal and political themes. Through his art, Perry acts as both an artist and a philosopher, dissecting the fabric of modern society and the art world. His commitment to addressing complex issues with integrity and passion highlights his role as a dynamic force in contemporary culture.

Jasper Tordoff

Jasper Tordoff, Specialist[email protected]

Interested in buying or selling
Grayson Perry?

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Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry

29 works

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