Title: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever
Author: Grayson Perry
Price: £9.49 – £17.00 (RRP £16.99)
Thanks to a vibrant red cover and distinctive typography this book won’t go unnoticed on a shelf! The title itself draws interest, and was in fact the title given by Perry to one of his exhibitions, which ran from the 8th June to the 10th of September at the Serpentine Gallery last year. The synopsis on the inner cover expresses Perry’s commendable belief that ‘ art shouldn’t be an exclusive club for people who ‘get’ it, but for everyone’. However, it must be said that in his introduction (which is more a small essay) his references to publications, artists, and exhibitions, would probably bewilder anyone other than those already holding a keen interest in art, rather than your ‘average Joe’, something which Matt Breen of Time Out firmly believes Perry isn’t: ‘What really undermines all his elitism-versus-populism, high-versus-low, posh-versus-common prevaricating is a strong sense that, deep down, he wishes he was still the un-pigeonhole-able outsider’ [Full article] and also: ‘Perry is now a fully-paid member of the establishment. Power, popularity: whatever you want to call it, he has it’. That may be so, but one thing is undeniable: Perry’s work is full of narrative and symbolism. It’s not only his work that conveys the thought behind his work, but also his very honest, analytical introduction. There is definitely passion fuelling his work.
In addition to an introduction from Perry there’s a contribution from Sandy Toksvig, who appeared on The Graham Norton show with Perry back in 2016. Her contribution further emphasises the political tone of the exhibition/book, delivered in an interesting, story-like narrative.
From the very beginning of the book you feel as though you’re immersed in the sketchbook of Perry, with doodles and illustrations littering the cover. What’s nice is that as well as high quality images of his finished work further in the book, you’re first granted a peek in to Perry’s creative and thought process, with annotations revealing snippets of thoughts. A note of warning to parents though, this book does contain some graphic sketches, so isn’t suitable for children. That being said, Grayson fearlessly and effectively confronts a subject close to his heart: masculinity, just one of the many issues covered in his work.
The book is very image-heavy, which could be argued to be apt as the art takes centre stage to speak for itself. However, each piece does come with an unassuming commentary, many of which divulge the interesting stories detailing the events/thoughts that lead to their creation.
The pieces themselves are wonderfully diverse, with a variety of mediums, from tapestry and ironwork to more traditional mediums. It’s interesting to see Perry’s sketches coming to life and serving their purpose: to create thought.
Final verdict: Obviously a book will never compare to actually attending an exhibition, but I found this interesting, thought-provoking, and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Perry, or even just symbolism and politics in art.
You can find this book on Amazon: link
Book Depository: link