Grayson Perry’s Sunderland tapestries to go on show

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AN award-winning artist’s rich tapestries which trace the history of working class Sunderland are to go on show in Wearside – for the first time.

Controversial artist Grayson Perry visited the city to find out about its style and class for Channel 4 documentary All in the Best Possible Taste, which was screened this summer.

Turner Prize winning, cross dressing artist Grayson Perry was in Sunderland filming an arts programme for Channel 4. Grayson does a piece to camera in Sunderland city centre.

Turner Prize winning, cross dressing artist Grayson Perry was in Sunderland filming an arts programme for Channel 4. Grayson does a piece to camera in Sunderland city centre.

The Turner Prize winner visited Heppies club in Hylton Castle and had a girls’ night out in the city centre as inspiration for his tapestries which are based on his experiences of Wearside culture.

Now, for the first time, the eccentric artist’s work will go on display in the city it was inspired by, when the pieces come to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

Grayson, who is famed for his controversial ceramic vases and cross-dressing, has gifted the works to The Arts Council Collection and British Council.

As part of a national tour the tapestries, entitled The Vanity of Small Differences, will arrive on Wearside in June. It will be the first stop on the tapestries’ British tour before they are shown around the world.

Artist Grayson Perry in Sunderland City Centre on saturday night.

Artist Grayson Perry in Sunderland City Centre on saturday night.

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.

Speaking today, Grayson 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.

Grayson Perry talking to Sunderland fans outside Greens on Low Row whilst filming for a channel 4 programme.

Grayson Perry talking to Sunderland fans outside Greens on Low Row whilst filming for a channel 4 programme.

“I hope that wherever it goes it not only delights the eye but also sparks debate about class, taste and British society.”

Grayson’s two Sunderland tapestries, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park, will be joined on the tour by a middle-class depiction inspired by Tunbridge Wells, and his interpretation of the upper class inspired by a visit to The Cotswolds.

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland Council cabinet member for culture, 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.”

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THE Vanity of Small Differences tells the story of class mobility and the influence social class has on our aesthetic taste.

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 went “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.