Grayson Perry’s Essex House Tapestries on show in Sunderland

Jo Cunningham with Grayson Perry's new exhibition
Jo Cunningham with Grayson Perry's new exhibition
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An exhibition of work from one of the UK’s favourite artists is on show in Sunderland.

Sunderland Museum, Library and Winter Gardens is hosting Turner prize winner Grayson Perry’s The Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope until Sunday, November 4.

The exhibition consists of two large-scale, striking tapestries shown alongside a graphic installation and specially commissioned audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope, a 3000-word narrative written and read by Perry that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life.

The artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life’. The tapestries were made for the Channel 4 programme Grayson Perry’s Dream House and later acquired by the Craft Council.

Julie Cope is a fictional character created by Perry – an Essex everywoman inspired by those he grew up with and whose story he has told through the two tapestries and extended ballad presented in the exhibition. The tapestries illustrate the key events in the heroine’s journey from her birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic accident on a Colchester street.

Jo Cunningham, exhibitions, collections and archives manager at Sunderland Museum, said: “The exhibition is already proving popular and we’re delighted to be hosting work of such national significance.”

The exhibition follows the artist’s Vanity of Small Differences tour which began at the museum in 2013, attracting more than 123,000 visitors, the most the site has ever had to an exhibition.