Grayson Perry Reith Lectures – My View

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Background Reading, Exhibitions and talks, Supporting Activities

My Views – Summary

I listened to all four of Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures – twice- in order to get his view of what he thought of art in general and to see if there were any references to photography.

My general impression was  that they were all entertaining, thought provoking and  well delivered, and it gave me a great insight into how the art world think of themselves and art, and based on the response to his lectures so did a vast number of other people.

My reflected thought  was that the art world is a sort of ‘members’ club which has a set of hidden rules and pathways that the artist has to follow to have any chance of ‘making it’ and become ‘famous’, and the to remain in that state.  There were several times during his lectures where I wanted to say that ‘I would like to see the world from the ‘art worlds’  point of view but I can’t get my head up that far up my own arse.’

I thought his last lecture was the best where he described the process of becoming an artist and that after college, you have to choose your style and stay with it for many years to see if it bears fruit. However, this was quite depressing when looking at it from my current position as he implied that you also had to live the life of a bohemian artist ‘environment’, and really immerse yourself in it.  I neither have the time, lifestyle, time or ‘youth’ to achieve this – so I doubt I will ever be able to consider myself an artist.

He didn’t mention photography that much, and only partially discussed whether photography could be described as art. Like pottery, he implied that photography is often consider a craft – a ‘suburb’ of the art world, because it was originally skilled based, but that has been broken down now that artist such as David Hockney use photographs and the use of Photoshop to create art. An interesting topic he did bring up was the reproducibility a piece of art and how art that is reproduced suddenly become ‘not art’. So does this mean that a poor photography by a famous photographer which has a limited run, can be considered higher art then an emotive photograph with a larger distribution?

My conclusion from his lectures was that the commercialism, artist persona,  and rarity of art makes it more art worthy then the work  itself. Art should have originality, technique and an emotional interaction,  however the art world seems to love a signature, rarity, and a work tat people want to buy – in which case they will see all the quality of the work that will make it sell better.

His four talks on his theme of Playing to the Gallery are outlined below

1 Democracy Has Bad Taste Tuesday 15 October 2013

The artist Grayson Perry reflects on the idea of quality and examines who and what defines what we see and value as art. He argues that there is no empirical way to judge quality in art. Instead the validation of quality rests in the hands of a tightknit group of people at the heart of the art world including curators, dealers, collectors and critics who decide in the end what ends up in galleries and museums. Often the last to have a say are the public.

In his first lecture Perry examines the words and language that have developed around art critique, including what he sees as the growing tendency to over-intellectualise the response to art. He analyses the art market and quotes – with some irony – an insider who says that certain colours sell better than others. He queries whether familiarity makes us like certain artworks more, and encourages the public to learn to appreciate different forms of art through exploration and open-mindedness.

2 Beating the Bounds – Tuesday 22 October 2013

In his second lecture, Grayson Perry asks whether it is really true that anything can be art. We live in an age when many contemporary artists follow the example of Marcel Duchamp, who famously declared that a urinal was a work of art. It sometimes seems that anything qualifies, from a pile of sweets on a gallery floor to an Oscar-winning actress asleep in a box. How does the ordinary art lover decide? Perry analyses with characteristic wit the common tests – from commercial worth to public popularity to aesthetic value. He admits the inadequacies of such yardsticks, especially when applied to much conceptual and performance art. And he concludes that in his opinion, the quality most valued in the art world is seriousness

3 Nice Rebellion, Welcome In!  – Tuesday 29 October 2013

In the third Grayson Perry asks if revolution is a defining idea in art, or has it met its end? Perry says the world of art seems to be strongly associated with novelty. He argues that the mainstream media seems particularly drawn to the idea of there being an avant-garde: work is always described as being “cutting edge,” artists are “radical,” shows are “mould-breaking,” ideas are “ground-breaking,” “game-changing” or “revolutionary,” We are forever being told that a new paradigm is being set. Perry says we have reached the final state of art. Not an end game, as there will always be great new art, but that art has lost one of its central tenets: its ability to shock. We have seen it all before.

4 – I Found Myself in the Art World Tuesday 05 November 2013

In his last lecture, Grayson Perry discusses his life in the art world; the journey from the unconscious child playing with paint, to the award-winning successful artist of today. He talks about being an outsider and how he struggles with keeping his integrity as an artist. Perry looks back and asks why men and women throughout history, despite all the various privations they suffered, have always made art. And he discusses the central purpose of creating art – to heal psychic wounds and to make meaning

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At a practical level, a good photograph is more about being in the right place at the right time and knowing what to take then the type of camera, skill and technique. My ambition is to show how anyone with a camera can produce great photographs when they visit London.

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