Grayson Perry and
the Reith Lectures

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I started two of Perry’s Reith lectures. I did not finish either.

They are full of the stench of cheery hypocrisy. As a “transvestite potter from Essex”, complete with cor-blimey accent, he pretends to stand as the plain-person’s scourge of art establishment, while being both part of it and absolutely dependent on it. His whole stance, artistically and personally, is designed for head-line effect in the disingenuous establishment of pseudo-transgression that is such a potent force in the art world.

I listened to some earlier interviews on line. In the older ones he finds it harder to sustain the accent beyond the opening sentences. Now he can perform “common” cackles and “working-class” tics with impeccable skill -– to rival that of Nigel Kennedy. King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford, seems far away.

The laddish presentation (yes, he is laddish) somehow succeeds in masking the reality of views that are ill thought-through, and often ill-informed. Just two examples. In an Art Newspaper interview ( he claims that “tapestries came before oil paintings”. This is simply untrue. In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, tapestries became far more expensive than paintings in exclusive aristocratic contexts – which is not the same thing at all. Then in a Victoria and Albert Museum interview on art and craft ( he tells us that “painting is becoming a craft”. This seems meaningless without some kind of supporting argument. Having ill-informed opinions, that are aired with chirpy assertiveness and are self-consciously designed to be contrarian, does not necessarily stop an artist from making great art-works. I think the tapestries and the pots are rather good, even if he’s no Hogarth. What is not justified is that Perry should be taken as some kind of authority on anything in art he choses to speak about.