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Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary…

Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to Be… (original 2014; edition 2016)

by Grayson Perry (Author)

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Title:Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to Be Understood
Authors:Grayson Perry (Author)
Info:Penguin (2016), 144 pages
Collections:Your library

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Playing to the gallery: helping contemporary art in its struggle to be understood by Grayson Perry (2014)


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This is a nice book to handle and to read, with delightful illustrations of a kind you would expect from Grayson Perry. I actually read it twice in the hope that I would not miss its message. The most memorable section is 'the beating the bounds' - this section is sub-titled 'What counts as art?' and has many good points.

On p.5 he says 'but with a few of the right tools we might find that we understand and appreciate it [contemporary art].' The eight boundaries of art certainly help with that p.55 ff.

His point about 'validation' p.22 certainly is important. And maybe each level of the validation process is a tool.

I would have liked Perry to elaborate on 'the right tools' rather than leaving the reader to work out what he thinks they are. A pity because it might have been really helpful.

I tried to apply some of the points made to the Niuean New Zealand artist John Pule about whom there was an article in Art New Zealand Autumn 2017. The article itself from a critic/interviewer could be regarded as a tool and if one visited his dealer gallery there may be more information. What other tools are there to use? p.111 'Art's primary role is to make meaning.' Certainly we can apply such a statement (tool?) to Pule's work, and yes he makes meaning of his current geographical and genealogical context through his painting.

There are propositions which make the book worthwhile -" the artist's job is to notice things". However I found the book as a whole too discursive and not sufficiently focused. Maybe it is really more of an autobiographical work and I have missed the point...

His description of 'fine art' challenged me - I don't think of pottery as fine art and I don't think of the Berlin Goddess as fine art. It seems like a bit of a red herring p.45.

Grayson Perry's book 'The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman' is much more satisfactory. ( )
  louis69 | Jun 18, 2017 |
Bedtime book. Not really given me any insights really into art. ( )
  adrianburke | Feb 11, 2017 |
A genuine attempt at an accessible work on understanding contemporary art for the average person, by one of Britain's more accessible and popular contemporary artists. I like Grayson Perry and his work, and I have a lot of time for anything he wants to say on this (and several other) subjects. I find myself nodding along to a lot of what he writes here, and he does raise some thought provoking points. However, somehow it doesn't add up to more than the sum of its parts. There is no great overarching vision here, just a series of interesting points well made, so it ends up lacking a little coherence overall. Also, he is still very much an insider to the art world, so sometimes what he says seems to lack a little insight into what those who are truly on the outside might feel (lots of talk about making money out of the art world, and thinking about what curators value in a work etc; quite minority interests, even for other artists that don't exist in that rarefied strata) But, worth a look, not least for his humorous sketches that litter the book, and manage to capture some aspects of contemporary culture pretty neatly. ( )
  HanGerg | Jan 16, 2017 |
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Book description
'It's easy to feel insecure around art and its appreciation, as though we cannot enjoy certain artworks if we don't have a lot of academic and historical knowledge. But if there's one message that I want you to take away it's that anybody can enjoy art and anybody can have a life in the arts - even me! For even I, an Essex transvestite potter, have been let in by the artworld mafia.'

Now Grayson Perry is a fully paid-up member of the art establishment, he wants to show that any of us can appreciate art (after all, there is a reason he's called this book 'Playing to the Gallery' and not 'Sucking up to an Academic Elite'.) Based on his hugely popular Reith Lectures and full of words and pictures, this funny, personal journey through the art world answers the basic questions that might occur to us in an art gallery but seem too embarrassing to ask. Questions such as:

What is 'good' or 'bad' art - and does it even matter? Is there any way to test if something is art, other than a large group of people standing around looking at it? Is art still capable of shocking us or have we seen it all before? Can you be a 'lovable character' and a serious artist - what is a serious artist anyway? And what happens if you place a piece of art in a rubbish dump? [Amazon.co.uk]
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