Sir Grayson Perry is an English contemporary artist, writer, and broadcaster. He is known for his ceramic vases, tapestries, and cross-dressing, as well as his observations of the contemporary art scene, and for dissecting British "prejudices, fashions and foibles." Perry's vases have classical forms and are decorated in bright colors, depicting subjects at odds with their attractive appearance. His work has strong autobiographical elements, in which images of Perry as "Claire," his female alter-ego, and "Alan Measles," his childhood teddy bear, often appear.
He has made a number of documentary television programs and has curated exhibitions. He has published two autobiographies, Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl (2007) and The Descent of Man (2016), written and illustrated a graphic novel, Cycle of Violence (2012), written a book about art, Playing to the Gallery (2014), and published his illustrated Sketchbooks (2016). Various books describing his work have been published. In 2013 he delivered the BBC Reith Lectures.
Perry has had solo exhibitions at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Barbican Centre, the British Museum and the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Arnolfini in Bristol, The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan. His work is held in the permanent collections of the British Council and Arts Council, Crafts Council, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Tate, and Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
He was awarded the Turner Prize in 2003. He was interviewed about the win and resulting press in Sarah Thornton's Seven Days in the Art World. In 2008 he was ranked number 32 in The Daily Telegraph's list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture". In 2012, Perry was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork—the Beatles' Sgt—Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover—to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life.
Born into a working-class family, Perry was four years old when his father, Tom, left home after discovering his mother, Jean, was having an affair with a milkman, whom she later married and who Perry has claimed was violent. Subsequently, he spent an unhappy childhood moving between his parents and created a fantasy world based around his teddy to cope with his anxiety. He considers that a person's early experiences are important in shaping their aesthetic and sexuality. Perry described his first sexual experience at the age of seven when he tied himself up in his pajamas.
Following the encouragement of his art teacher, Perry decided to study art. He did an art foundation course at Braintree College of Further Education from 1978 to 1979. He spent a short period of his school life at King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford (KEGS), but mainly he studied for a BA in fine art at Portsmouth College of Art and Design (now the University of Portsmouth), graduating in 1982.
He was interested in film and exhibited his first piece of pottery at a New Contemporaries show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1980. In the months following his graduation, he joined The Neo Naturists, a group started by Christine Binnie to revive the "true sixties spirit – which involves living one's life more or less naked and occasionally manifesting it into a performance for which the main theme is body paint." They put on events at galleries and other venues. At this time, Perry was living in squats in central London.
When he left for Portsmouth in 1979, his stepfather told him, "Don't come back." Perry was estranged from his mother; when she died in 2016, he did not attend her funeral. As of 2010, he lives in north London with his wife, the author and psychotherapist Philippa Perry. They have one daughter, Florence, born in 1992.
In 2007 Perry curated an exhibition of art by prisoners and ex-offenders entitled Insider Art at the Institute of Contemporary Arts presented by the Koestler Trust. This charity promotes art as rehabilitation in prisons, young offenders institutions, and secure psychiatric units. He described the artworks as "raw and all the more powerful for that." In 2011 he returned to the annual Koestler Trust exhibition, this time held at London's Southbank Centre, and judged the award winners in Art by Offenders with Will Self and Emma Bridgewater.
In 2015 he was appointed to succeed Kwame Kwei-Armah as chancellor of the University of the Arts London. Perry is a keen mountain biker and a motorcyclist. Perry is a supporter of the Labour Party and has designed works of art to raise funds for the party. In September 2015, Perry endorsed Jeremy Corbyn's campaign in the Labour Party leadership election. Perry said he would back Corbyn as he was "doing something interesting for the political debate." He added: "I think he's gold." In October 2016, he said that Jeremy Corbyn had "no chance of winning an election."