Grayson Perry’s striking ceramic figure Melanie has been bought by York Art Gallery for its reopening on August 1 with support from the Friends of York Art Gallery, the Art Fund and the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund. The work, which was one of The Three Graces created for Channel 4 series Who Are You? will feature in the opening displays of the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) at the gallery.
Perry was the first artist producing pottery to win the Turner Prize in 2003 and, following his recent projects in television as an award winning documentary filmmaker, he has been propelled into the public eye to become one of Britain’s best known contemporary artists. Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics, said: “We are thrilled with the new addition to our ceramics collection. Grayson Perry is arguably the best known potter in the UK today and, as such, we felt that his work should be represented in CoCA.
“Melanie is one of Grayson’s most recent works; a voluptuous figurative piece with a strong narrative which discusses the changing view of what constitutes feminine beauty. We are confident that the acquisition of this powerful and unusual work will be a strong addition to our collection of British ceramic art which is already the largest and most significant collection in the UK.”
"We are confident that the acquisition of this powerful and unusual work will be a strong addition to our collection of British ceramic art which is already the largest and most significant collection in the UK.”
Perry said of The Three Graces: "Three women stand big and proud, who want their size to be seen as a positive. I have portrayed them as vaguely antique hieratic adorned with images, old and new, of female ‘perfection’ and food. In the history of sculpture, female forms such as these were often seen as fertility goddesses to be prayed to for children and plentiful harvests. Nowadays we are more likely to see a growing health problem.” YMT Card holders will have the opportunity to be amongst the first to see the work and the newly refurbished York Art Gallery at the YMT Card Holder’s Preview on July 23. More details below.
Melanie will be displayed in the new first floor galleries dedicated to CoCA, framed by original Victorian architectural features and flooded with natural light. This gallery space will also showcase some of the most important ceramics of York Art Gallery’s collection and the artists that created them; from William Staite Murray’s iconic vases to Lucie Rie’s delicate buttons.
Grayson Perry, Melanie, 2014
Melanie forms one part of a three piece portrait titled The Three Graces. The work consists of three large scale ceramic figures which he has modelled and decorated with painted and printed imagery. The Three Graces featured in the third episode of Who Are you? shown in autumn 2014 and focused on groups, or as Perry called them ‘Tribes’. These three ladies- Melanie, Georgina and Sarah- were contestants in the ‘Miss Plus Size International’ competition and Perry was filmed joining them on a weekend boot camp in Somerset.He was interested in their struggle for acceptance as larger size women, not just from others but from themselves and described the boot camp as a ‘mass coming-out experience’.
Melanie is a large figurative curvaceous female form, standing on a pedestal. Her stance echoes fertility figures such as the ‘Venus of Willendorf’, which were amongst the earliest modelled ceramics known, some dating back 11,000 years. With exaggerated breasts, hips and thighs, they are often shown without arms and having a small head with no facial features. Unlike these figures, Perry has given his ‘Graces’ faces, making them true portraits.
The existing work in public collections by Perry mainly consists of more traditional ceramic vessel forms or works in other media. This piece represents a development in Perry’s practice; producing a more challenging but still retaining his edgy narratives with connections to both historical and contemporary art and popular culture.
The degree of interest for Grayson Perry’s work in York was reflected in the ‘Connect 10’ competition by ‘Museums at Night’ in May 2014. Rivals in the competition were a number of high profile London based museums and galleries but, with nearly 5,500 votes, more support was gained than any other museum had ever received in the three years that the competition had been running. As part of the event Perry did an ‘In Conversation’ event and tickets for this sold out in just three minutes.
Grayson Perry’s Melanie will be on show to the public on August 1, however, YMT Card holders have an exclusive chance to see the work and the newly refurbished York Art Gallery prior to the public opening at the YMT Card Holder’s Preview Event on July 23.
There is also the opportunity to meet members of the art team, see the new display spaces featuring highlights of our nationally significant collections along with four major new art commissions by contemporary artists including Clare Twomey and Susie MacMurray. YMT Cards can be purchased on the day from York Art Gallery. For more information on YMT Cards please visit our site.York Museum's Trust