25 September - 20 December 2019
It’s pouring with rain, and in a smart Mayfair gallery amongst a crowd of sopping journalists there’s Grayson Perry; as bouncy as the little lamb emblazoned on his T-shirt. There may be no sign of his cross-dressing alter-ego Claire today (too rainy, I’m told), but sporting scruffy hair, trainers, and a Magda Archer statement tee; the clothes are still important.
Perry is here to tell us about the new works that make up Super Rich Interior Decoration, his solo show at the Victoria Miro Gallery. On display are 10 new pots, prints, a tapestry and a carpet, as well as ‘merch’ – a line of handbags made in collaboration with Osprey, a keyring charm of Alan Measles (Grayson’s childhood teddybear and a metaphor for masculinity and god) and a yoga mat, the ‘prayer mat’ of the rich white woman. Humorous, decorative and sardonic, the works raise two fingers to the super rich and the ‘liberal elite’ – exactly those who might collect and buy his art.
As we arrive at the gallery news is breaking that Boris Johnson did unlawfully prorogue Parliament. The first item in the show is a ceramic glazed pot, Vote Tory and there is his face, floating within a retro flower-print alongside David Cameron, Michael Gove, Theresa May et al. A nostalgic patterned backdrop over-laid with swirly red text. ‘I don’t want to over-explain the pots’ Perry says, ‘but I like the idea of something pretty and fun and colourful carrying a grim message’.
More richly decorated pots – destined to be decorations of the rich – include Shopping for Meaning, where a blue print is interspersed with images taken by Eleni Parousi of Perry himself, in a wig, headscarf and different outfits posing outside designer shops, a ‘handbag’s throw’ from the exhibition itself; a comment on consumerist habits of the wealthy. Speaking about identity, Perry tells us he’s just joined Instagram (under @alanmeasles). He loves Twitter, but Instagram is different. ‘How shall I put this, it’s earnest!’ he says with distain. For a newbie, he seems to have caught on quickly, with pots Searching for Authenticity, Negative Space and My Perfect Life nodding grimly to the superficial sameness of selfies, and the homogenization of culture in the digital age.
But if the pots are provocative, they’re not a patch on the vast carpet, Don’t Look Down in Gallery 3. Sugary ice cream colours and an aesthetically-pleasing border pattern of mansions and houses belie the subject inside the frame; a homeless man zipped in a sleeping bag and surrounded by bottles, pills and his dog. Perhaps destined for a large apartment to be quite literally trodden on by champagne-drinking collectors, the carpet is almost like a dare – and Perry asks with a laugh, ‘I’m interested to see who will want to own this!’
All of the work here is for sale for vast sums of money – more affordable is the playful merchandise. There are brightly coloured handbags (£1800) produced with Osprey that include an Alan Measles teddy bear clasp, turn the knob to open…with Vote Tory motifs and slogans inside. Then there’s an Alan Measles charm (£220) and, poking fun at the Goop-y lifestyle, a yoga mat covered with words like Latitude, Verbier – with arrow to knee, star signs, and an exfoliated yoni (£95):
It’s no surprise that during the process of making these works Perry had in mind Nam June Paik’s quote, ‘the artist should always bite the hand that feeds him – but not too hard.’ Sharp and acute, this exhibition of decorative works is classic Grayson Perry. His first solo show in London since 2012, we urge you to visit.