Beloved British artist, ceramicist and curator Grayson Perry’s work has not commanded quite the level of record breaking prices at auction as some other 21st century sculptors. However, due to his steady presence in the public eye, particularly in his lockdown TV sensation Grayson’s Art Club, Perry's prints, paintings and ceramic works have seen a significant rise in price and popularity.
Here we list Perry's most expensive artworks so far:
Establishing his place as a key player in the contemporary art world with these earlier ceramic works, Perry’s acidic yellow vase sold for £632,750 at Christie's London in October 2017, making it the most expensive of his creations.
One of the very first works sold by the artist, the vase is covered with images of famous artists - including the large Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, created via photo-transfer. It is a dedication to Perry’s own favourite artists.
This work sets a precedent for a dissonance between the traditional medium of pottery and contemporary subject matter and decoration. - a contrast Perry consistently employs in his ceramic works. What appears to be a largely bright and cheerful ceramic is made darker when one looks closer and sees the skeleton reminding us of Basquiat's untimely death.
Dubbed by Perry himself as his most ‘literally autobiographical work,’ The Guardians is a pair of ornamental-looking vases that remain one of the artist’s most personal, touching creations. The ‘guardians’ themselves sit atop these large vases and depict Perry’s mother and step-father, neither of whom he had a particularly easy relationship with.
A reflection on the traumas of his own childhood, the pair sold for £443,250 at Christie’s London on 4th October 2019. Despite the more generic visual nods to classical chinoiserie and christian iconography, particularly with the use of gold, these vases are essentially self-portraits, littered with glimpses of the artist’s life. They are currently held by ceramic collectors Diane and Marc Grainer.
Included as part of Perry’s Turner Prize Exhibition, Barbaric Splendour takes its name from a phrase from Ernst Gombrich’s A sense of Order. As is to be expected, the vase itself, while decorative at first glance, is a vessel for Perry’s contemporary social commentary. Upon closer inspection, puddles, crowded social housing and a largely sombre palette create the backdrop of a Northern working town, where the figure of the young artist himself stands amongst the scenery.
Sold for £224,750 at Christie’s London on March 6th 2018, this work has gained notoriety since its first exhibition. As always, the conflict between ideas of class and the decorative arts is brought to the fore by the artist’s choice of subject matter. The decorative arts demand our attention, the times where indulgence in the ornate was ‘morally inferior’ are over.
Created the same year that Perry won the Turner Prize, this glazed ceramic urn sold for £200,000 at Christie's London on 6th October 2017. Held by the Victoria Miro gallery, Saint Claire 37 Wanks Across Northern Spain captures his consistent attempts to depict the ‘evils of society.’
The high-gloss glaze coupled with the liberal use of gold acts as a nod to Perry’s engagement with classical ideas of ceramics and their status as a ‘lower art’ or craft. Works like this reference oriental pottery and draw our eye, only to then force us to scrutinise their detailing. Detailing which, here, draws upon the sex work industry and our assumptions of art history itself. Of course, his alter-ego Claire makes an appearance, taking pride of place amongst the figures and scenery carved.
Sold for £187,500 at Christie’s London on 12th February 2020, this vase, titled Emotional Landscape, was first exhibited in 2002 at the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam. It was created as a form of protest against the creation of the M11 Link-Road, which was a cause Perry was directly exposed to due to his studio being situated in Leytonstone.
Importantly, the ‘No More Art’ placard which draws our eye, foreshadows the real sign to be held by Perry’s alter-ego Claire outside the Tate Britain a year later. Once again, we are exposed to the conflict between the decorative purpose of the ceramic vase and the overt social criticism contained in the subject matter. The vase is inevitably a functional object, but Perry prioritises the function of social commentary and protest here rather than any of our traditional associations with ceramics.
A perfect example of Perry’s ability to combine witty, poignant commentary with the domestic and ornamental associations of pottery, Oiks, Tarts, Weirdoes and Contemporary Art sold for £175,000 at Sotheby’s London on 7th March 2018.
Previously held in the Saatchi Collection as well as the Lawrence Delaye gallery, this vase depicts a variety of figures all ostensibly from different social backgrounds. Much like his vase from the same year I Want to be An Artist, Perry has placed a larger portrait of artist Lucian Freud centrally. Like the title suggests, we are confronted with a medley of faces alongside the famous Freud, perhaps a comment on social diversity, or the variety amongst the sources which Perry draws his own artistic influences from.
Another of the works shown in Perry’s Turner Prize Exhibition of 2003, Golden Ghosts is a particularly haunting, delicate creation. While of course laden with the autobiographical, (namely the image of Claire) as well children of a ‘bygone era,’ the vase references greek and folk artistic traditions.
Claiming himself that vases have “humility - they whisper rather than shout,” Perry’s use of elegant line work and mark making captures this sentiment. Sold at Christie’s London on 2nd October 2018, the vase brought in £175,000. It may be ‘humble’ in appearance but clearly is far from that in terms of value.
Famed for his sense of humour and his sardonic commentaries on the establishment, Grayson Perry strikes again with his Balloon. Perry made the yellow glazed ceramic vase in 2004 at the height of his career – in 2003 he had been awarded the Turner Prize. Through intricate drawings, the artist presented a wide array of key figures of the art world as inhabitants of a fantastical historical saga. We see Nicholas Serota as the pope, Charles Saatchi as the emperor and Michael Craig-Martin as a saint, surrounded by established galleries like Victoria Miro and White Cube.
The vase went under the hammer on 1 July 2022 at Christie’s London, realising £163,800, a price double its lower estimate.
Created in 2000, this vase won Grayson Perry the Turner Prize in 2003 - to no small amount of controversy. A visual combination of pottery, folk motifs and overt links to neglect and trauma related to childhood, the work has since sold for £156,250 at Christie's London on October 2nd 2018.
What comes across initially as a classically influenced, almost homely, ceramic, complete with gold and rural motifs, is then given wholly new meaning when one realises the darkness of the words inscribed on the urn: “fucking little shit,””oi you” and “baby.” To say the least, this isn’t your average decorative vase. As Perry has always insisted when it comes to ceramics, the pot itself remains a ‘stable thing’ while you can ‘push the boat out’ when it comes to its actual meaning.
Sold at Phillips London on the 7th March 2019 for £150,000, Sunset Through Net Curtains is one of Perry’s earlier ceramics. Images from art history mix with those from contemporary sport, and seemingly innocuous floral motifs are littered with more personal references.
As usual, the traditional vessel of the urn has been flipped on its head by Perry, to become a method of social commentary and an object representative of contemporary societal issues. A figure here hunches over a computer screen - at odds with the ornate, traditional urn it is depicted on, typical of Perry’s ability to juxtapose medium and content.
A wry, wonky shrine to three iconic British figures - typical of Perry’s oeuvre: Rushdie, Thatcher and Coward adorn this urn in all their grotesque glory. There is a sharp contrast between the vessel itself, its ornate visual appearance and its subject matter. These figures are not venerated in the typical sense, rather defaced, emasculated and altered - a reflection of Perry’s own views of their legacies: it is not a love letter, but not quite an expression of hatred either.
Sold for £150,000 at Sotheby’s London on the 11th of February 2020, this vase still retains its multifaceted, ambiguous status 25 years after its creation. It epitomises Perry’s refusal to be wholly forthcoming with his own views on societal legacies and issues, instead opting to create testaments to the complexity of class and contemporary viewpoints that divide our society.