Covered in sequins and sporting his signature 1920s blond bob and painted face, Grayson Perry addresses a crowd gathered in the cavernous Foundation Hall at the Museum of Contemporary Art dressed as his artistic alter ego, Claire. “Hello Australia!” he beams to an explosion of applause and cheering. Perry is here to celebrate the opening of My Pretty Little Art Career at the MCA. The exhibition is the most comprehensive survey of the feted, Turner Prize-wining British artist’s work to date, and the first major exhibition of Perry’s shown in the Southern Hemisphere. “Please make sure you give it some attention,” he adds. “Because well, it is my pretty little art career!”
My Pretty Little Art Career covers the entire spectrum of Perry’s oeuvre, from the early 1980s up until the present. Put together by MCA chief curator Rachel Kent, the exhibition features more than 60 works, incorporating Perry’s spellbinding ceramic vessels; prints and drawings; sculpture work in iron and bronze; and breathtaking and wildly intricate large-scale tapestries.
Deemed one of Britain’s best contemporary artists and cultural critics, Perry’s work is permeated with vernacular and witty, sly humour. The impressive and elaborate six-piece tapestry The Vanity of Small Differences, is an appropriation of William Hogarth’s 1733 classist satirical painting series, A Rake’s Progress. Perry’s version weaves the story of a working-class man who climbs the social ladder through the success of a tech start-up, before crashing his Ferrari in suburban Essex.
Equally as extraordinary is The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, a cast-iron Viking death ship which draws some inspiration from the grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, and was the centerpiece of Perry’s 2011 exhibition at the British Museum. The exhibition also includes a set of Perry’s brilliant glazed ceramic vases. Inspired by Satsuma vase design and 19th-century Japanese pottery, they feature vivid scenes, stories and extracts of cursive text.
My Pretty Little Art Career is at MCA until May 1, 2016.