Grayson Perry "Who Are You?" at the National Portrait Gallery

Grayson Perry is one of my favourite artists, as I've mentioned a few times over the years (see here, here and here, for example). I absolutely loved his Channel 4 series Who Are You? back in October so I was really excited to see the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Unlike most exhibitions, Perry's works were dotted throughout the first floor of the gallery, interspersed with those on permanent display. For me, this was a really interesting way to display the works as it had such a submersive effect. I also loved the little map that was provided, showing the recommended route to view each of the pieces. It was a bit like visiting a really high-end Ikea!

Comfort Blanket is a vast tapestry based on a bank note and designed as a portrait of Britain. In every nook and cranny are words and images relating to Britain as an identity, from fish and chips to Cliff Richard.

Each portrait in the gallery concerns the identity of a different group of people and what it is that makes up that identity. This tapestry, Britain is Best, was based on Northern Irish unionists.

The pot shown here is named Modern Family. The two men featured are a couple who have adopted an African boy. In the documentary series, their struggle to retain their son's African heritage, despite them both being of white British descent, was clear.
This piece, named The Ashton Hijab, was one of the most interesting for me. It portrays Kayleigh Khosravi, a white British girl in her 20s, as she converts to Islam. The hijab shows Kayleigh turning towards Mecca and leaving behind the temple of consumerism, Ashford Designer Outlet.  

The Huhne Vase was concerned with something very different: The disgraced politician Chris Huhne, who was jailed for perverting the course of justice after his wife took the blame for his speeding offence. After completing the vase, Perry smashed it and then gilded it back together to show Huhne's vulnerability and how the experience has fundamentally changed him, no matter how much he protests otherwise.
A third tapestry, The Line of Departure, depicts soldiers who have been injured in warfare. The shadows cleverly show their identities both as men at home and as soldiers.
I am a Man is a triumphant statue in the form of Alexander White-Huggins, a man who was born female. His love of Peter Pan inspired Perry's work, showing Alexander as a proud, youthful boy. I like to interpret it as him blowing his own horn and showing the world how amazing he is!

I don't think I've ever mentioned it on here, although I sure have on Twitter, but I am a huge Rylan fan. Ever since his first audition for X Factor, I've just blooming loved him, so I was really, really excited to see the exhibition's smallest piece. Although it's absolutely tiny, it was positioned and lit in such a way that your eyes were immediately drawn to it. 
Named The Earl of Essex, Rylan's portrait was based on the miniature's of Elizabethan court. Perry was interested in the cult of celebrity, and how somebody can go from being completely unknown to being recognised everywhere they go in just a few weeks. You can actually buy limited editions of these in National Portrait Gallery shop but, unfortunately, they are £5000. 
Jesus Army Money Box has been portrayed as a chasse, a medieval religious casket, and shows the Christian group who inspired it taking care of the homeless.

The final piece in the exhibition, The Deaf, is one of the most striking. When talking to people with hearing difficulties, Perry was interested to learn that they think of themselves as a cultural group, rather than a disabled one. Within the group, one of the men had metal spiked hearing aids to match his punk roots and this inspired the depiction of this work as a band poster.

If you're heading into London soon, I recommend you pop into the National Portrait Gallery and take a look. There are some really interesting pieces and it got me thinking about my own identity. What makes up who am I and how could this be portrayed? I might just give it a go!


  1. I love Grayson Perry, I wish I could get to London to see this because I feel like it's one of those things that you just need to see in person! They look amazing! x

  2. This is such a interesting and thought provoking collection. I'd never heard of Grayson Perry before, thanks for introducing me to his work!

    Roxie ♥

  3. I adore this, I really want to visit it. I loved reading about him when I did art at college
    Love Vicki | victoriajanex


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