A display featuring two artworks by Grayson Perry: a large ceramic vase, Jane Austen in E17, and one of his first major etchings, Print for a Politician.
Manchester Art Gallery
Tuesday 1 February 2011–Sunday 12 February 2012
Co-curated by The Creative Consultants, a group of young people aged 15-18, and artist Jim Medway. This display used film, text and unusual objects to make links between these exciting contemporary artworks and rarely seen examples of historic costume, prints and ceramics from our collections.
Visitors could discover a collage of miscellaneous objects, such as a punk jacket, a regency dress, Tetley tea folk and Worcester porcelain, in addition to the works by Grayson Perry.
These eclectic objects were chosen by our Creative Consultants to encourage exploration of themes in Grayson Perry’s works including class politics and identity, art and craft, appearance and reality, old and new and labels and text.
The young people hoped the display and these unusual items would inspire guests to make their own connections, start new conversations and raise new questions about the artworks by Grayson Perry.
Jane Austen in E17 (2009) is a beautifully executed large ceramic vase inspired in shape by Chinese porcelain, decorated with detailed drawings of elaborately dressed Georgian ladies taking tea and conversing. The genteel figures reflect Perry’s interest in the feminine and his knowledge of historic dress. They refer to the ideal view of British culture portrayed in popular costume dramas of Jane Austen’s novels.
In contrast to these idealised figures, the vase also features layered photographic transfers of contemporary life, including cuttings from celebrity magazines and more sinister references to crime and surveillance, taken from the streets around Perry’s studio in London’s E17.
Print for a Politician (2005) is only the second print that Perry treated as a major work; it took over a month to draw. The etching shows groups of people including academics, fundamentalists, northerners, parents and transvestites in a landscape setting, each group given a name, like a place name on an old map. All the groups are armed for battle, with weapons of war from different periods and cultures. Perry’s intention for this work is to show the complexity of human society. He hopes audiences will identify with one or more of the groups and realise it is possible to live together peacefully despite our differences.
Jane Austen in E17 and Print for a Politician were chosen for acquisition by Manchester Art Gallery as two of the best examples of Perry’s distinctive, subversive work. They both reference the historical and the personal and are ambitious in concept, large in size and assured in execution.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recently selected a black and white version of Print for a Politician from the Government Art Collection to hang in his office. The etching was also previously chosen by MP Andy Burnham for his office when he was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in 2008.
Visual Dialogues is a partnership programme managed by Tate Britain working with regional museums and galleries. The programme is jointly funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Children, Schools and Families as part of the Strategic Commissioning Programme for Museum and Gallery Education.
The purchases of the vase Jane Austen in E17 and print Print for a Politician were made thanks to generous support from The Goldstone and Livingstone Family Trusts, in memory of their parents’ friendship, together with funding from the Art Fund and support from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.