Grayson Perry gift to the ACC and British Council

30 November 2012







The Arts Council Collection and British Council, today, 30 November, announced the joint acquisition of Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences, a series of six tapestries Perry created this year alongside the Channel 4 series ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’, his exploration of British taste. This major work, gifted to the Arts Council Collection and the British Council by the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London, was supported by Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund, and Sfumato Foundation.


The gift is a significant act of philanthropy on behalf of the artist and partners involved, and recognises the unique domestic and international reach of these two great national Collections. The Arts Council Collection and the British Council Collection work to maximise opportunities for British artists and arts institutions in the UK and overseas, and this collaboration gives the widest possible audience a chance to see this important work.


Speaking today Grayson Perry said:“I am hugely pleased and proud that The Vanity of Small Differences will be shared by the Arts Council and British Council Collections because this means the work will be able to travel all around the country and the world. Thanks also to the Art Fund, Sfumato Foundation and Channel 4; their support means the tapestries now have a chance to reach a very wide and varied audience. Of all the pieces I have made this was the one I conceived from the outset as a public artwork. I hope that wherever it goes it not only delights the eye but alsosparks debate about class, taste and British society.”


The Vanity of Small Differences, which to date has only been displayed at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, will begin a national and international exhibitions tour by going on display at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden in June 2013. The exhibition, which will run until the end of September 2013, is part of the Festival of the North East which celebrates the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham Cathedral next summer.


It is of particular significance that the works begin their public tour in Sunderland as this is where Grayson sets the first two tapestries The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park. The tour will continue to Manchester Art Gallery in late 2013, with exhibitions at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Temple Newsam House in Leeds confirmed for 2014. An international tour will follow.


The Vanity of Small Differences tells the story of class mobility and the influence social class has on our aesthetic taste. Inspired by William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress the six tapestries, measuring 2m x 4m each, chart the “class journey” made by young Tim Rakewell and include many of the characters, incidents and objects Grayson Perry encountered on journeys through Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and The Cotswolds for the television series ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’.  The television programmes were first aired on Channel 4 in June 2012. In the series Perry goes “on a safari amongst the taste tribes of Britain”, to gather inspiration for his artwork, literally weaving the characters he meets into a narrative, with an attention to the minutiae of contemporary taste every bit as acute as that in Hogarth’s 18th century paintings.


Caroline Douglas, Head of the Arts Council Collection, said: “We are very excited by this hugely generous gift from Grayson Perry and Victoria Miro, and extend our warmest thanks to Channel 4, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation for their wonderful support in making this unique joint acquisition and tour possible. Grayson Perry curated a show for the Arts Council Collection in 2008 and so has first-hand experience of how we work; he understands that works in the Arts Council Collection are seen and enjoyed by the widest possible public across the UK.  After the initial UK tour in 2013-14, the tapestries will be available as a loan to museums and galleries in the UK and abroad.”


Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts and Strategic Programmes, British Council, said: “Grayson’s state-of-the-nation tapestries are caustic, funny and affectionate. They are a marvellous gift to our two Collections, and to our worldwide audiences.”


Tabitha Jackson, Arts Commissioning Editor, said: “Grayson’s hugely successful series on taste was a true creative partnership with Channel 4, garnering not only critical acclaim for the series, but an even wider audience for Grayson himself. His tapestries are now bringing together further collaborations between major arts organisations and we’re thrilled to help give viewers of the series around the country a chance to explore his beautiful and intricate work up close.”


Cllr John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Sunderland City Council, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens is to be the first venue on the national tour of the Tapestries, particularly at a time when creativity is being acknowledged and celebrated here in the North East. The opportunity to see great art in familiar surroundings together with the fact that something of this City's people and character has been captured by Grayson Perry whose work is then being acquired for the nation is really very special.”


Stephen Deuchar, Director, the Art Fund, said: “The Art Fund is delighted to be helping the two collections acquire and exhibit this richly complex work, an important but vivacious romp through the idiosyncrasies of modern Britain. We’re very grateful to the Sfumato Foundation for its support.”


The Sfumato Foundation, said: "The Sfumato Foundation is pleased to be able to support the acquisition and display of this important series of works, from one of the UK's preeminent artists, which combine acute social observation with innovative use of a traditional technique and are simultaneously universally accessible."


For more information, please contact Helena Zedig, Deputy Head of Press, Southbank Centre, on 020 7921 0847 or 07803596587or


Notes to Editors


The Arts Council Collection, which is run by Southbank Centre on behalf of Arts Council England, is one of Britain’s foremost national collections of post-war British Art. As a collection 'without walls', it has no permanent gallery; it can be seen on long term loan to museums, galleries, schools, hospitals, colleges and charitable associations and in touring exhibitions and displays at home and abroad.   It is also, importantly, one of the most widely circulated and easily accessible collection of its kind, with nearly 8000 works available for loan.  Established in 1946 to promote and enrich knowledge of contemporary art, the Collection continues to acquire works by artists, many at an early stage of their career, living and working in Britain and to foster the widest possible access to modern and contemporary across the UK. It includes work by Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin, Lucian Freud, Antony Gormley, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Anish Kapoor, Henry Moore, Bridget Riley and Wolfgang Tillmans. For more information visit


The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of nearly £700 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%. We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.


For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and


Channel 4’s All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry


For more information: To watch on 4oD:


The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art, helping museums and galleries across the UK to acquire great works of art and develop their collections, and encouraging the public to make the most of all there is to see. Over the past five years we have given £24 million to enable over 200 museums, from ancient sculpture and treasure hoards to Old Master paintings and contemporary commissions, and supported a range of programmes which bring art to wider audiences. We also work with collectors to help place gifts of art in suitable museums and galleries. We are independently funded and the majority of our income comes from 95,000 members who, through the National Art Pass, enjoy free entry to over 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the country as well as 50% off most major exhibitions. For more information please go to


Festival of the North East celebrates the region’s creativity and innovation with a programme of events spanning arts, heritage, creative industries, museums and engineering throughout June 2013. Taking place across Teesside, County Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, the festival heralds the arrival of the Lindisfarne Gospels which begin a three month residency at Durham Cathedral on July 1st.


Southbank Centre


Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery as well as The Saison Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. For further information please visit


Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.


Arts Council Collection: Grayson Perry gift to the ACC and British Council
Arts Council Collection: Grayson Perry gift to the ACC and British Council
Arts Council Collection: Grayson Perry gift to the ACC and British Council
Arts Council Collection: Grayson Perry gift to the ACC and British Council
Arts Council Collection: Grayson Perry gift to the ACC and British Council

The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With nearly 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyondThis website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.