Grayson Perry's latest exhibition to go on display in Sunderland

29 May 2018

A new exhibition by Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry is heading to Sunderland’s Museum and Winter Gardens.

The Essex House Tapestries: the Life of Julie Cope will go on display from Saturday, August 4 to Sunday, November 4.

Grayson is no stranger to the city after spending time here for his Vanity of Small Differences exhibition in 2013 which was the most popular held at the museum, attracting more than 123,000 visitors.

His latest work consists of two large-scale, striking tapestries which will be shown alongside a graphic installation and specially-commissioned audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope, a 3000-word narrative written and read by Perry that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life.

The artworks represent, in Perry’s words, “the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life.”

The tapestries were made for the Channel 4 programme Grayson Perry’s Dream House and later acquired by the Craft Council, supported by Art Fund with contributions from The Wolfson Foundation and private donors.

Julie Cope is a fictional character created by Perry – an Essex everywoman inspired by those he grew up with and whose story he has told through the two tapestries and extended ballad presented in the exhibition.

The tapestries illustrate the key events in the heroine’s journey from her birth during the Canvey Island floods of 1953 to her untimely death in a tragic accident on a Colchester street.

Coun John Kelly, who is responsible for communities and culture, said “We can all be proud of the fact that our city is to host such a high profile exhibition. 

“I’m sure this display of the artist’s tapestries will attract huge interest, showcasing Grayson Perry’s work and showcasing Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens as one of the country’s leading art galleries.”

Jo Cunningham, exhibitions, collections and archives manager at Sunderland Museum, said: “We’re thrilled to be presenting Grayson Perry’s latest touring exhibition and I’m sure it will attract large audiences to our art gallery. The voice over really adds something to the experience and is delivered in Perry’s distinctive way – it’s very skillfully observed.

“When Perry’s Vanity of Small Differences tour began here in 2013, it was hugely popular – attracting more than 123,000 visitors, the most we’ve ever had to an exhibition.”

Perry visited the city for his Channel 4 programme All in the Best Possible Taste and based the subject matter for his first two tapestries The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park on the places and characters he found here.

Rebecca Ball, creative director at Sunderland Culture, said: “After the success of the Vanity of Small Differences a few years ago, we’re sure Grayson Perry’s Julie Cope exhibition will be equally as popular. He seemed to have a real affinity for the city, and Wearsiders really took to him too.

“It’s an exhibition of national significance and we’re delighted to present it in Sunderland.”