On Grayson Perry’s modern life-journey from birth to death you meet Madonna with a Chanel bag. What do you have in your luggage?

Grayson Perry, The Walthamstow Tapestry, 2009. Detail. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

Grayson Perry

Life is a journey from birth to death. Each passenger travels with their own suitcase packed with cultural heritage, consumer habits and human experiences. If you had to draw your life as a journey, what and who would be drawn on the map? What has made you the person you are today?

Brands as religion

Grayson Perry’s seven metre long tapestry displays the modern person’s almost religious relationship with labels and brands. The work is read from left to right, like a picture of life’s long journey. The hundreds of tiny everyday motifs depict some of the dangers and temptations people encounter along the way. They all give a harsh yet comical picture of our consumer society, where having the right label can create a false sense of security and community.

Madonna with Chanel bag

On the tapestry we see a young schoolgirl with plaits and a doll, a young man, the Madonna with the Chanel handbag – not the baby Jesus – and the ageing office man with the briefcase as images of life’s stages. But they are also people like you and I, dressed in and surrounded by things, symbols and brands that portray our gender and identity. Only the new-born and the dead are naked.

About Grayson Perry

Grayson Perry is particularly well-known for his vases and tapestries. He works with these items because they are part of people’s normal everyday life and are closely linked to typical middle-class tastes. His vases and tapestries are teeming with words and pictures, which with great humour and perceptiveness raise questions about modern life, our habits and values.

Perry’s art is political and autobiographical with a twist. He grew up with a desire to dress up in women’s clothing and to challenge his sexuality, something that his father in particular found hard to accept. The childhood teddy Alan Measles often plays an important role in Perry’s work, as a kind of substitute father, his own having left the family when Perry was just seven years old. Perry is now a cross-dresser, and he regularly appears as his female alter ego, Claire.

Born in 1960 in Chelmsford, England.

Lives and works in London.

Trained as an artist at Portsmouth Polytechnic, England.

Won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2003.

In 2006 he published his autobiography “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl”.

He has contributed to British TV documentaries and radio programmes on art, about life in different British social classes and about transvestites and masculinity.


Grayson Perry, The Walthamstow Tapestry, 2009. ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

The artwork is not on display at the moment.

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