Playing to the Gallery – Grayson Perry

The old cliché goes ‘I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like’ and, like many clichés it is largely true. I enjoy looking round galleries, I paint (although that may not, strictly speaking always be terribly ‘artistic’) and I have read my Gombrich. I have, however, always had a problem with a lot of contemporary art. I’m a big fan of Magritte and Matisse and I’ve spent many a happy hour wandering around the Yorkshire Sculpture Park admiring the Gormleys and Goldsworthys but the rest I don’t quite ‘get’. And I’ve often thought this could be a fault in me…


Grayson Perry is someone whose opinion I can really value in this area – he is a successful practicing artist and a fellow Essex ‘girl’ – and, after reading Playing to the Gallery, I feel that I have gained a huge amount of artistic confidence.

What I have learned is that the ‘best’ art isn’t necessarily the most popular, the most expensive or the one which is reviewed in every broadsheet. That art is scary because you can’t explain why you like a particular work, that appreciation is as much about what you feel as what you see and that it is okay to disagree with the great and the good….(especially when they write about art in ways that just make you feel you aren’t clever enough to understand what they are saying). Oh, and that I’m probably never going to be a fan of ‘performance art’.

The best part of this book is Grayson Perry’s voice. He just seems to be such a down-to-earth person – one who not going to let being a transvestite from a county which sometimes seems to be a national joke hold him back. And why should he? He knows his material here but doesn’t talk down to the reader – he certainly makes me feel like I should go and visit some art on my next day off. In this book he has made contemporary art seem far more approachable (and has reminded us we have permission to dislike it if we want). He has also made it (along with Caitlin Moran, Claudia Winkleman and Victoria Coren Mitchell) onto my fantasy dinner party list – I reckon it would be a great night!



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