Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry, whose ceramic architecture project with FAT is coming along just swimmingly, has had more cause for celebration this year.
In January Perry, 53, met with Prince Charles who honored the artist with a CBE, Commander of the Order of the British Empire medal, which is awarded to people who play distinguished, innovate roles at the national level. The Daily Mail reported that Perry was the “first cross-dresser to collect a gong while wearing a dress.” This may have been Perry’s alter-ego Claire, but the report doesn’t confirm that and the outfit looks a little more formal than Claire’s typical fashion sense. Perry, who said he was stressing out about what to wear for the ceremony, said it was his “Italian mother of the bride outfit.” The outfit didn’t cause a scene, although Charles apparently giggled for a moment and the medal couldn’t be placed over Perry’s head due to the size of the hat he was wearing. It worked out, though. The artist had a conversation with Prince Charles and Royal sources didn’t rise to the bait of press questions asking whether the dress was appropriate. One source apparently commented that people would have been more upset had the artist showed up in a pair of jeans.
Perry’s rise to this point is inspiring. As a teenager he was kicked out of his home after saying that he wanted to wear women’s clothes. After starting out in Portsmouth as an artist, Perry decided to work in pottery, in part because it was unfashionable in the art world. Beyond the medium, his works themselves were challenging because, although beautiful, they often confronted people with themes such as sadomasochism, car wrecks or the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster. Instead being forever an outsider due to this triple-threat, Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003 and the work as well as the artist are beloved in British society. His project with FAT Architecture, for example, is going to be part of an upcoming BBC documentary. There’s a moral in here, somewhere, but we’re not going to beat you over the head with it.
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
Above images: Grayson Perry at his CBE honors ceremony at Buckingham Palace earlier this year. Photographs by Alan Davidson and PA.