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Grayson Perry's monumental suite of six tapestries begins tour in Sunderland
Grayson Perry, The Agony in the Car Park, 2012. Wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester and silk tapestry, 200 x 400 cm, 78 3/4 x 157 1/2 in. Edition of 6 plus 2 APs.
LONDON.- The Arts Council Collection and British Council announced that the first edition of Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences has begun a national and international exhibitions tour by going on display in Sunderland from 28 June – 29 September 2013, following the joint acquisition of the work by the Arts Council Collection and the British Council. Perry created his series of six tapestries last year for the BAFTA award-winning Channel 4 series ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’, his exploration of British taste. The work was subsequently gifted to the Arts Council Collection and the British Council by the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London, supported by Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund, Sfumato Foundation, and AlixPartners. The Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation are also supporting the UK tour of the tapestries, as well as education and interpretation materials for the UK tour.

The Vanity of Small Differences, which to date has only been displayed at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, opened to the public at Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden on 28 June, as part of the Festival of the North East which celebrates the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham Cathedral. It is of particular significance that the works begin their public tour in Sunderland as this is where Grayson sets two of the tapestries, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park. The tour will continue to Manchester Art Gallery in October 2013 (24 October – 21 January 2014), followed by exhibitions at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (14 February – 11 May 2014), the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool (May – August 2014) and Leeds City Art Gallery (1 August – 1 October 2014). An international tour will follow. Perry’s own edition of The Vanity of Small Differences went on display as part of the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2013.

To coincide with the display, the Arts Council Collection launched an app for iPad and iPhone produced by Aimer Media with commentary from the artist, art historical references and a guide to the making of the works. This is Perry’s first app and gives users the chance to see the tapestries up close with detailed zoom facility. The digital guide, Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences, is available from the Apple’s iTunes Store (£1.99).

A beautifully produced and fully-illustrated hardback catalogue has been published by Hayward Publishing to accompany the tour. With an inventive and elegant design from Pony Ltd, The Vanity of Small Differences includes an extensive array of full-colour reproductions of Perry’s tapestries, complete with photos of the artist’s sketches and preparatory material for the tapestries themselves. The publication features essays by journalist Suzanne Moore and Grayson Perry, alongside extensive commentary on each of the tapestries and an essay by writer and curator Adam Lowe on the process of their making. Special exhibition price £14.99 at touring venues (RRP £17.99).

Last year’s gift of the tapestries to the Arts Council Collection and the British Council was a significant act of philanthropy on behalf of the artist and partners involved, and recognises the unique domestic and international reach of these two great national Collections. 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.

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

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 and won a BAFTA this year in the Specialist Factual category. In the series Perry goes “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.

Caroline Douglas, Head of the Arts Council Collection, said: “We are very excited by this hugely generous gift from Grayson Perry and Victoria Miro Gallery, and extend our warmest thanks to Channel 4, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation for their wonderful support in making this unique joint acquisition and tour possible. Grayson Perry curated a show for the Arts Council Collection in 2008 and so has first-hand experience of how we work; he understands that works in the Arts Council Collection are seen and enjoyed by the widest possible public across the UK. After the initial UK tour in 2013-14, the tapestries will be available as a loan to museums and galleries in the UK and abroad.”



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