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The Walker welcomes Grayson Perry

Class and taste in contemporary Britain under scrutiny in six striking tapestries.

The Walker welcomes Grayson Perry

The Walker welcomes Grayson Perry

This summer, the WalkerArtGallery will be exhibiting six stunning tapestries exploring the human condition and social nuances as depicted by artist Grayson Perry, winner of the 2003 Turner Prize.

Later this year, from 16 May (evening) to 10 August, The Vanity of Small Differences will be on display as part of Liverpool’s one night arts and culture festival, LightNight,. 

The National Museums Liverpool’s Modern Masters series, of which The Vanity of Small Differences belongs, is partially funded by the European Union sponsored ERDF (European Regional Development Fund).


You are invited to a media preview at 11am on Thursday 15 May at the Walker Art Gallery. Curator of costume and textiles, Pauline Rushton is available for interview.

Perry designed the tapestries as part of a series he made with Channel 4 in 2012, called All in the Best Possible Taste. In the television series Perry went: “on a safari amongst the taste tribes of Britain” (Perry), investigating the tastes of the working class in Sunderland, middle class in Tunbridge Wells and upper class in the Cotswolds.

The fascinating observations Perry made on his journey provide a compelling, snap-shot of modern Britain. Middle class angst, ‘old money’ snobbery and a community shattered by job losses and industrial decline all come under Perry’s scrutiny. Ordinary objects from a football kit, celebrity chef cookbook and Cath Kidston shopping bag, take on new symbolism and provide a rich visual language.

Perry also examines the idea of social mobility between the classes. The tapestries are a modern evocation of A Rake’s Progress, the series of paintings by 18th century artist William Hogarth.

Like Hogarth’s character, Tom Rakewell, Perry’s fictional hero, Tim Rakewell, comes from working class origins, marries into the middle class, makes enough money to buy himself an upper class lifestyle and then dies a tragic death.

Vivid colours, remarkable textures, contrasting patterns and an intriguing commentary which wind through each scene, build a complete picture of the tragic rise and fall of an ordinary man, which “not only delights the eye but also sparks debate about class, taste and British society” (Perry).

Layered on top of this exploration of class and taste, Perry includes visual references to a number of Renaissance paintings in each of the tapestries, creating a timeless quality and the sense of an enduring human condition.

Curator of costume and textiles, Pauline Rushton said: “Their extraordinary detail, colour and texture are captivating. Traditionally tapestries would tell stories or evoke historic events. Grayson’s tapestries are just as epic, packed with notions of society, symbolism and references to art history, religion and literature.”

Director of ArtGalleries, Sandra Penketh said:  “We are very excited to be showing these incredible tapestries. Grayson’s fascination in the subtle rules society is governed by is accompanied by a keen eye for detail and a wonderful sense of humour.

“The Walker’s own rich collection of medieval and Renaissance art, as well as our commitment to show the very best contemporary art, make it the perfect venue for the tapestries. We’re grateful to our partners for helping us bring this important artwork by an international artist to Liverpool.”

The WalkerArtGallery is the third venue outside London to be showing Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences. The UK tour of the tapestries and the joint acquisition of the work by the Arts Council Collection and the British Council has been made possible thanks to a significant act of philanthropy on behalf of the artist and a number of partners involved.

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 important work.

Jill Constantine, Acting Head, Arts Council Collection said: “ The Vanity of Small Difference ” has attracted huge public interest and we’re delighted that the people of Liverpool will now have the opportunity to see these extraordinary tapestries for themselves”.


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