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Visitors to the British Museum in London were able to view a new exhibition curated by Grayson Perry titled “The Tomb of Unknown Crafts” starting on October 6 this fall. The exhibition is a mix of pieces from the museum’s archives and Perry’s own pieces.
Perry, known for his classical Chinese and Greek shaped pottery, selected 170 objects, which include pottery, tapestries, and sculptures, from a list of over 1,000 pieces. He used 30 of his own pieces. One of those pieces is his new work, “The Unknown Craftsmen.” The piece is an iron coffinship is decorated with casts of objects from the museum’s collection.
Perry said the mixed-media piece is a memorial to the unknown craftsmen. The process of whittling down the list of pieces was a long one, but Perry was deliberate in choosing those that are on display. “I have made my choices of objects from the British Museum collection because of their connection with each other and with my work.
Sometimes their connection is their function, sometimes in their subject and often in their form,” he said. However, one thing that connects the entire exhibition is that all the pieces were ones that he liked. He also chose pieces based on how the craftsmen used the materials.
“I didn’t choose just to celebrate the craftsmen for their precision, but for their dialogue with materials,” he said. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said this type of exhibition is something the museum has never done before. “Grayson has not just selected objects, he has made his own civilization,” he said.
Perry said the name of the exhibition is appropriate, especially for the British Museum because of its history of showing artifacts from Egyptian tombs. The exhibition runs through to February 9, 2012. Perry has won several awards for his work before, including the Turner Prize, which has been awarded annually since 1984. He was the first potter to be nominated for the prize and the first to win the award.
“It’s about time a transvestite potter won the prize,” he said when he accepted the award, which he did in a Little Bo Peep-style dress, alluding to his alter-ego Claire. However, these days, Perry says that after therapy, the days of him being Claire are over. “There’s no part of my personality I hive off anymore. I’m fully integrated. It’s not an alter ego, it’s a fetish. It’s just me in a frock,” he said.
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