Friday 30 November 2012


The Arts Council Collection and British Council, today, 30 November, announced the joint acquisition of Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences, a series of six tapestries Perry created this year alongside the Channel 4 series ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’, his exploration of British taste. This major work, gifted to the Arts Council Collection and the British Council by the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London, was supported by Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund, and Sfumato Foundation.

The gift is 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.

Speaking today 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, which to date has only been displayed at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, will begin a national and international exhibitions tour by going on display at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden in June 2013. 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.

It is of particular significance that the works begin their public tour in Sunderland as this is where Grayson sets the first two tapestries The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park. The tour will continue to Manchester Art Gallery in late 2013, with exhibitions at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Temple Newsam House in Leeds confirmed for 2014. An international tour will follow.

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 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, 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.”

Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts and Strategic Programmes, British Council, said: “Grayson’s state-of-the-nation tapestries are caustic, funny and affectionate. They are a marvellous gift to our two Collections, and to our worldwide audiences.”

Tabitha Jackson, Arts Commissioning Editor, said: “Grayson’s hugely successful series on taste was a true creative partnership with Channel 4, garnering not only critical acclaim for the series, but an even wider audience for Grayson himself. His tapestries are now bringing together further collaborations between major arts organisations and we’re thrilled to help give viewers of the series around the country a chance to explore his beautiful and intricate work up close.”

Cllr John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Sunderland City Council, 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.”

Stephen Deuchar, Director, the Art Fund, said: “The Art Fund is delighted to be helping the two collections acquire and exhibit this richly complex work, an important but vivacious romp through the idiosyncrasies of modern Britain. We’re very grateful to the Sfumato Foundation for its support.”

The Sfumato Foundation, said: "The Sfumato Foundation is pleased to be able to support the acquisition and display of this important series of works, from one of the UK's preeminent artists, which combine acute social observation with innovative use of a traditional technique and are simultaneously universally accessible."

Notes to Editor




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