Grayson Perry's The Vanity of Small Differences goes on tour

Grayson Perry’s monumental suite of six tapestries to begin tour in Sunderland where the work’s story of class mobility starts.

The Arts Council Collection and British Council are pleased to announce that the first edition of Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences will begin a national and international exhibitions tour by going on display in Sunderland from 28 June – 29 September 2013, following the joint acquisition of the work by the Arts Council Collection and the British Council. Perry created his series of six tapestries last year for the BAFTA award-winning Channel 4 series ‘All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry’, his exploration of British taste. The work was subsequently gifted to the Arts Council Collection and the British Council by the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London, supported by Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund, Sfumato Foundation, and AlixPartners. The Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation are also supporting the UK tour of the tapestries, as well as education and interpretation materials for the UK tour

The Vanity of Small Differences, which to date has only been displayed at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, will open to the public at Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden on 28 June, as part of the Festival of the North East which celebrates the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham Cathedral. It is of particular significance that the works begin their public tour in Sunderland as this is where Grayson sets two of the tapestries, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park. The tour will continue to Manchester Art Gallery in October 2013 (24 October – 21 January 2014), followed by exhibitions at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (14 February – 11 May 2014), the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool (May – August 2014) and Leeds City Art Gallery (1 August – 1 October 2014). An international tour will follow. Perry’s own edition of The Vanity of Small Differences will go on display as part of the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2013, opening on Monday 10 June 2013.

To coincide with the display, the Arts Council Collection is launching an app for iPad and iPhone produced by Aimer Media with commentary from the artist, art historical references and a guide to the making of the works. This is Perry’s first app and will give users the chance to see the tapestries up close with detailed zoom facility. The digital guide, Grayson Perry: The Vanity of Small Differences, will be available from 10 June from Apple’s iTunes Store (£1.99).

A beautifully produced and fully-illustrated hardback catalogue has been published by Hayward Publishing to accompany the tour. With an inventive and elegant design from Pony Ltd, The Vanity of Small Differences includes an extensive array of full-colour reproductions of Perry’s tapestries, complete with photos of the artist’s sketches and preparatory material for the tapestries themselves. The publication features essays by journalist Suzanne Moore and Grayson Perry, alongside extensive commentary on each of the tapestries and an essay by writer and curator Adam Lowe on the process of their making. Special exhibition price £14.99 at touring venues (RRP £17.99).

Last year’s gift of the tapestries to the Arts Council Collection and the British Council was 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.

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 also sparks debate about class, taste and British society.”

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 and won a BAFTA this year in the Specialist Factual category. 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 Gallery, 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."

AlixPartners, said: “AlixPartners is proud to support the acquisition of The Vanity of Small Differences and this highly innovative collaboration. For three decades AlixPartners has been developing innovative and creative ideas that have helped businesses to realise that there are options available to them that will allow them to flourish for generations to come. We hope that this tour will inspire the public, artists and business around the world.”

Adrian Driscoll, Director, Aimer Media, said: "Aimer is delighted to be able to work with Grayson Perry's astonishing set of tapestries, we hope that we have managed in this app to reveal just some of the hidden and not-so-hidden layers of meaning embedded in every stitch.

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

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.

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

AlixPartners LLP is a global business-advisory firm offering comprehensive services in four major areas:enterprise improvement, turnaround and restructuring, financial advisory services, and information management services. The firm was founded in 1981 and can be found on the web at

Aimer Media works with publishers and cultural organisations to create informative and educational apps including critically acclaimed titles such as the Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms, Pevsner's Architectural Glossary and UNESCO World Heritage.

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.

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