I will be the first to admit that I am no fan of modern art as a general rule – I like my art like my men, classic, with age and preferably Italian or French but I am quite fond of English too. Of course there are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb, the colourful phase of Gilbert and George, earthy gritty oil paintings by Francis Bacon and the contemporary, colourful, wonderfully childlike images of Grayson Perry.
So when I heard that the 2003 Turner Prize winner, Grayson Perry, was going to hold an exhibition of course I was thrilled but then deeply disappointed that it would be at the historical sanctum of Bloomsbury, the British Museum. For me theBritishMuseumis home to history not contemporary modern art. Regardless of how great an artist Grayson Perry is, I just felt that it was the wrong place for such an exhibition. For me his natural home would have been the V&A or Tate Modern. I aired this overrated opinion of mine on Twitter and theBritishMuseumwas interested by my opinion and agreed to let them know what I thought after I visited.
What more could I do but satisfy my curiosity and see the exhibition. At least I knew that art would be good even if I felt that the space to exhibit it was wrong. Anyway I am always looking for an excuse to head to theBritishMuseum. I was apprehensive to be honest, Monday was a dark, wet day the light in the museum alters and I get spooked by the Egyptian galleries on the brightest of days in summer so to be entering a room with no windows called a tomb set me on edge.
But I should not have worried as the first thing you see is AM1 also know as Alan Measles’ pope mobile for the “benign dictator” of Perry’s personal civilisation, his 50 year old teddy. As a magpie to colourful objects, AM1 was amazing in its candy pink and sky blue, adorn with delicate heart shaped parts and seat, beautiful bear motif key, and pilgrim medallion depicting Alan Measles on his bike, and at the very back his own reliquary for the people of Germany to meet Alan Measles.
For such a masculine form of transport it was both beautiful and practical all it was missing was Penelope Pitstop. During the exhibition Alan Measles has installed a stunt double; well a deity and benign dictator is very busy! AM1 is no mere work of art; the bike has gone on its own pilgrimage with Alan Measles, making a progress to Germanyon a peacemaking mission. Germanyin my mind is made up of chocolate box images and small world inDisneyworldwith added beer with big bubbly heads traditional dress and Barvarian Black Forest castles and lakes, images right out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
As I waited for my time spot to enter the exhibition I found my heart warmed by the mixture of people waiting to enter, there were cool media types, funky art students, trendy Nan’s with colourful chunky necklaces and expensive, well cut clothes with trendy well cut silver hair and an older hippy couple in colourful clothes here we all were waiting to enter the exhibition waiting to follow our personal journey into Grayson Perry’s mind. When we entered the show space we were greeted straight ahead with an introduction to the exhibition from the artist himself. It was that introduction that opened my mind and turned the British museum into the perfect place to hold this exhibition.
So what changed my mind? The first exhibits are three helmets two were
Grayson Perry’s pieces one was from the museums collection, and you would find it hard to tell which ones were which, at this point I got the point of the exhibition, Grayson Perry is paying the British Museum the biggest complement, by reminding us historians (or maybe just my “inner Frasier Crane”) that the objects are art as well as history and making familiar objects new and shiny again.
As you move through the gallery space, art pieces both new and old mingle with objects from just about every continent and culture you can imagine all with one thing in common, they could have been a creation from the mind of Grayson Perry. Many of Grayson’s pieces depict images of Alan Measles as well as familiar icons from the museum from Roman faces, Egyptian mummies, Buddha heads to Madonna icons.
Pieces that really stood out for me include the Rosetta vase with its striking yellow and blue depicting social observations; Family Tradition that from a distance could be a glazed vase from the museum but up close has both pictures and text about Grayson’s childhood and family; the patriotic and thought provoking Head of a Fallen Giant, which is a black skull embossed and made up of great British people and ideas, the Tomb Guardian a large depiction Alan Measles which is a looks like a love child between a Pokemon and Hello Kitty with a very excited male genitalia.
The crux of the exhibition though was the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen, a memorial to the unknown men and women who made the artefacts that make up the collection of theBritishMuseum, It could be the visual metaphor of the Museum itself. The glass vessels hung from the burial ship structure represent the blood, sweat and tears that the talented individuals spilt in the making of items in the collection.
Within an hour I made a journey into a colourful, beautiful and world that reminded me that history its not just about the rich and famous; it is about the craftsmen who leave a legacy of beautiful objects and reminds us all that humanity throughout the ages and cultures come down to life, beauty and death. Also that art can be found in other places other than a gallery or picture.
9th Novemeber 2011
The exhibition was honest, warming and heartfelt. If this is the imagination of Grayson Perry then I wish to have a one way ticket to become a citizen. All hale Alan Measles (and of course the exhibition is just worshiping you as god).