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Playing to the gallery: helping contemporary art in its struggle to be… (2014)

by Grayson Perry

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1447146,606 (3.91)1
Grayson Perry’s book will overturn everything you thought you knew about “art” 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 the Academic Elite). This funny, personal journey through the art world answers the basic questions that might occur to us in an art gallery but that we’re too embarrassed to ask. Questions such as: What is “good” or “bad” art—and does it even matter? Is art still capable of shocking us or have we seen it all before? And what happens if you place apiece of art in a rubbish dump?… (more)
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Starting with the good, I love the illustrations throughout this book, I loved the fourth chapter, I Found Myself in the Art World, and I love Grayson Perry as an artist. The fourth chapter is personal, straight, humorous, and has enjoyable anecdotes. The rest, however, is a watered down series of half-observations on what art is, and how it exists in the 'art world'. Although I accept that some of the observations on high art have accuracy, they are too simplified and miss some of the key points that were made by the artists (such as a poorly referenced throwback to Joseph Beuys' idea that everyone can be an artist, or a series of strange insults to the idea of curatorial practice). The writing also meanders away from the central points, and even the humour seems bitter at times when exploring the other themes of the book (what is art? who decides?). So this is just OK, maybe an interesting introduction to contemporary art for someone unfamiliar with art today, but overall not very enjoyable. ( )
  ephemeral_future | Aug 20, 2020 |
I've become increasingly interested in art in the last few years, but finding well-written books to help me understand the world of art has not been so easy. There are some fine books out there, but they are out-numbered by dense and difficult books that take everything too seriously, or that assume a background knowledge that I simply don't possess.

'Playing to the Gallery' is not like that at all. Based on his Reith Lectures, this book is Grayson Perry's very approachable take on the world of contemporary art, and guides you through the major discussion points that people like me will inevitably run into - what is art? What does it mean to be an artist? Is everything art? Who decides?

I loved this book, and steamed through it in little more than a day. Now I need to go out there and find another book to take me further in my art adventure. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Dec 12, 2019 |
Art Library - shelved at B70
  HB-Library-159 | Oct 5, 2017 |
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 |
loved the pictures , and found what he ahd to say very interesting, but some of the points were made in a rambling, repetitive kind of a way ( )
  Deborahrs | Apr 15, 2017 |
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Grayson Perry’s book will overturn everything you thought you knew about “art” 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 the Academic Elite). This funny, personal journey through the art world answers the basic questions that might occur to us in an art gallery but that we’re too embarrassed to ask. Questions such as: What is “good” or “bad” art—and does it even matter? Is art still capable of shocking us or have we seen it all before? And what happens if you place apiece of art in a rubbish dump?

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'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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