Grayson Perry Agony in the Carpark
Detay: Grayson Perry, Agony in the Carpark, 2012 ©

British Council Collection and Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel4 Television, Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from AlixPartners.

Perry has always worked with traditional media; ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry. Each historic category of object has accrued over time intellectual and emotional baggage. Tapestry is the art form of grand houses: depicting classical myths, historical and religious scenes and epic battles. In this series of works Perry plays with idea of using this ancient allegorical art to elevate the commonplace dramas of modern British life.

The tapestries are chiefly inspired by William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, eight engravings produced in the 1730s which follow the story of Tom Rakewell, a young man who inherits a fortune from his miserly father, spends it all on fashionable pursuits and gambling, marries for money, gambles away a second fortune, goes to debtors prison and dies in a madhouse. Perry’s tapestries follow Tom’s modern equivalent, Tim Rakewell, tracing his ascent through modern society in brightly coloured scenes bursting with brand names and pop culture references.

The secondary influence comes from the artist's favourite form of art, early renaissance painting as encapsulated by the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. Thus, each of the six images, to a greater or lesser extent, pays homage to a religious work. 

They also reference the pictorial display of wealth and status in The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck and Mr & Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough. Each image also features a small dog, reminiscent of Hogarth's beloved pug, Trump.

Vivid colours, remarkable textures, contrasting patterns and an intriguing commentary, build a complete picture of the tragic rise and fall of an ordinary man, which not only delights the eye but also sparks debate about class, taste and British society.  

The Vanity of Small Differences is jointly owned by The British Council Collection, the Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, with the support of Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from Alix Partners.