Grayson Perry’s 2014 Reith Lectures – a missed opportunity

Patrick Cullen explains why Grayson Perry missed an opportunity by avoiding the important issues he claimed to be addressing.

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100vw, 1181px" />Grayson Perry was a surprising choice to deliver the Reith Lectures given the list of senior academics, elder statesmen and those at the

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top of their profession preceding him in the job. One wondered why, when it came to contemporary art it was decided to break with tradition and hand the spotlight to one

of its

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middle ranking practitioners with no track record as

about what can and cannot

be art…”  I was beginning to warm to his theme. If the art world complacently thinks anything can be art, but Grayson doesn’t agree, perhaps he was going to tell us what those essential qualities are that distinguish art from the merely banal and common place. He informed us that
he wanted to establish the boundaries of art a bit like in mediaeval times people marked the territory of their parishes google_ad_width = 970; by a primitive process called “beating the bounds” (the title of this 2nd Reith Lecture). Hence the whip.

Just prior to /* xin2 */ listing what he saw as the boundaries beyond which things ceased to be art, he paused to

imagine how “his friends in the art world” would laugh at him for wanting to establish the limits of

art, has it got

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a big gilt frame round it?” Or try this one: How do you know if someone is a criminal? Helpful test: are they in a prison? It might just have been an initial bit of farce before the more serious stuff, if so many of his other tests hadn’t turned out to be in a similar vein. Yes, statistically, pieces of visual art are quite likely to be found in art galleries – surprise, surprise – but this tells you nothing about what makes google_ad_slot = "8637400688"; them art, or how to distinguish them from the things in art galleries that aren’t art.

Test number two: started off as “Is it a boring version of something else?” This might have


led into whether art has to be original which would have been a serious line of inquiry, but he left off before he’d started on this one and it morphed into…

… Test /* 9-970x90 */ number three: “Is it entertaining? If so it may not be art because art is a serious

business.” Perry immediately mocks this test, telling us that it reminds him how the worst thing you can call an artwork is decorative – a bit of a leap that, but no doubt this is a jibe he must at /* xin-1 */ some time have
had to contend with himself,

all those people who claim not to know much about art but who know what they like, would at least recognise when a guy like Duchamp was taking the piss.

Patrick google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; Cullen

The Jackdaw, 2014