Little Miss Popular: Grayson Perry on his latest exhibition
Grayson Perry is that rare thing; an artist who’s as equally respected by his peers as he is loved by the public.
Even his TV series haven’t dented his reputation as a serious artist – on the contrary, they’ve resulted in the creation of some of his best work. But now he’s confronting his popularity head-on with a new exhibition, The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, at the Serpentine Gallery in London.
Perry allowed Winq into his studio to discuss his work in progress — and his relationship with the LGBT+ community.
Why did you want to explore the subject of Brexit in this key work for your next show?
What was interesting for me about Brexit was that it crystalised the divide in society that’s been coming a long time, but it hasn’t really focused around something before, because old party loyalty clung on. Because Labour had New Labour and so therefore it kind of morphed into something that adapted to the modern demographic and then that kind of hid the fact that up north and in a lot of the old industrial areas, they felt left behind. And I think what Brexit offered was that thing of ‘Take back control.’ The person who came up with that, they really put their finger on what was behind people’s motivation.
How does your identity as a transvestite replay your childhood dramas?
I think it’s to do with humiliation. I think that you go through childhood collecting chips if you like, certain dramas, certain incidents, certain experiences, and then when you get to puberty you kind of cash ‘em in. So it’s like you come to a counter and you sort of hand over your childhood experiences and they say, ‘Yeah you’re a tranny,’ and they give you a tranny licence, you know.
We’ve heard a lot about your sexuality in the past, but how do you feel about the umbrella term LGBT+? I know Eddie Izzard used to call himself a transvestite but now identifies as trans.
I’m happy to be aligned with people who campaign around sexual freedoms within the law; that’s great that we can do what we want, as long as it’s consensual. I’ve always felt like, yes, I’m quite happy to be part of the community, but I don’t necessarily think that I’m overtly part of the trans spectrum because I feel that a lot of trans people have more of an emotional, more of a lifestyle investment in it than I do. For me, I’m a man who likes wearing a dress; I have no bothers about it. I like to go out and be very open about it in public. But I’m under no illusion about my gender identity.
When was the first time you became aware of gay people?
I remember, I think my parents found out about me being a tranny just before the broadcast of The Naked Civil Servant, which was about ’75/’76, I think. And I remember watching it with my father and I think he was watching me, watching it, to see what my reaction was. He sent me to the doctor and they were very interested to see if any other men had been involved and I said no, I was very sure that I wasn’t gay because I was sexually attracted to women.
Find out more about Grayson’s latest exhibition here.
Elsewhere in the Summer issue of Winq, there are interviews with Sherlock star Andrew Scott, currently starring in Hamlet on the West End, and Danny Watts, the most successful racing driver to come out as gay anywhere in the world.. We travel to Thailand and Rotterdam, get the background on the horrific abuse in Chechnya, and ask if the pink pound can advance equality around the developing world. Melvyn Bragg recalls his friend Francis Bacon, Patrick Gale writes a letter to his younger self and Russell T Davies picks his cultural highlights. Packed with insightful commentary from a newly expanded panel of columnists, Winq is the journal for gay men by Attitude.