The Bloke Who Came Fifth

Adam Mars-Jones

  • The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry
    Penguin, 160 pp, £8.99, April 2017, ISBN 978 0 14 198174 1

John Maltby, the studio potter and sculptor, used to say that you can’t make a teapot about your father’s death. Grayson Perry’s whole career assumes the opposite, that you can express any amount of personal and social comment through traditional forms of craft, not just pottery but tapestry and textile design: the Tate sells a printed silk headscarf of his that wouldn’t look out of place in a county town on market day, but represents contemporary art as a sort of board game, with arrival at the Bankside holy of holies (above the cheeky caption ‘Tat Moderne’) the winner’s reward. He is still the only Turner Prize winner to use a medium associated with craft, with vernacular making, as much as high art.

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