Artist Profile: Grayson Perry

1 January 2021

This month we focus on Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry, whose major Arts Council Collection work, The Vanity of Small Differences, will tour venues across the UK over the next 12 months and is currently on show as part of Newlyn Art Gallery’s latest National Partners Programme Exhibition, until January 2021.

Grayson Perry is a great chronicler of contemporary life, drawing us in with wit, affecting sentiment and nostalgia as well as, at times, fear and anger. In his work, Perry tackles subjects that are universally human: identity, gender, social status, sexuality, religion. Autobiographical references – to the artist’s childhood, his family and his transvestism – can be read in tandem with questions about décor and decorum, class and taste, and the status of the artist versus that of the artisan.

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.

Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre London and British Council. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional support from AlixPartners.


Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences shows at The Exchange, Penzance until January 2021, before touring to Norwich, Rochdale and Hereford though to December 2021. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, dates and venues may change. Find full details of the 2020-21 tour here.

The 2020-21 Touring Exhibition is accompanied by a new educational film featuring commentary from the artist which will be presented alongside the exhibition and can be viewed here.


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

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