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Playing to the Gallery

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,256 ratings  ·  208 reviews
Grayson Perry’s book will overturn everything you thought you knew about “art”

Now Grayson Perry is a fully paid-up member of the art establishment, he wants to show that any of us can appreciate art (after all, there is a reason he’s called this book Playing to the Gallery and not Sucking Up to the Academic Elite). This funny, personal journey through the art world answer
Hardcover, 135 pages
Published 2014 by Penguin
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Average rating 4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,256 ratings  ·  208 reviews

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Nov 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: The Week
Shelves: art
I am a Grayson Perry fan on various counts... his work as an artist, his role as commentator on the contemporary art scene, and I love the joy and humour in the dresses and wonderful shoes he so often wears. ♥

Grayson Perry: photograph by Richard Ansett 2013.
Photograph by Richard Ansett, 2013.

Grayson Perry. Comfort Blanket.
Grayson Perry - Comfort Blanket.

Grayson Perry. The Ashford Hijab.
Grayson Perry - The Ashford Hijab

This book - a commentary on contemporary art and what it means - has received outstanding praise from all quarters. For me though, there were a few ideas that I couldn't get my he
Frank Callaghan
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I remember the first time I saw a pot by Grayson Perry. It was at an RA Summer Exhibition. I had two works exhibited and went to the preview where I saw this brilliant work. I didn't know then anything about Grayson Perry, but I knew I was looking at something exceptional. Ever since then I have been an ardent admirer of Grayson and his work. I recently read the Grayson Perry biography and greatly enjoyed that, and this book was a Christmas present, which with enormous guilt, I have only just go ...more
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pure-awesomeness
"An artwork is a candidate for contemplation or appreciation" ~ George Dickie (philosopher)

"Art is expressing one's universal wound - the wound of living a finite life of incomplete meanings" ~ Raymond Tallis (clinical neuroscientist)

"The metaphor that best describes what it's like for my practice as an artist is that of a refuge, a place inside my head where I can go on my own and process the world and its complexities. It's an inner shed in which I can lose myself." ~ Grayson Perry

I don't know
Steven Pilling
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it

Based upon the radio 4 series (Reith Lecture i think)

Pure polemic , Perry is a fabulous guide , he is playful , funny , analytical and opinionated

Parry questions art and the viewer he takes you around art , gives some art history and lots of funny and very clear opinions.

One of the best books about art you could read, i dont agree with everything he says but i like that he said it and i reconsidered my opinions about art as a result (although i dont think they have changed!)
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thank goodness for Grayson Perry. A cheerful, authoritative voice speaking sense and allowing a keen (but limited in knowledge and understanding of the visual arts) observer like myself to get an up to date picture of the contemporary art world. I first encountered these ideas on his Reith Lectures (BBC Radio 4). (For a few weeks I arranged meetings and work schedules to allow me to be driving while these were on.) He's the first person since the late Robert Hughes to make me feel comfortable in ...more
E.P. Rose
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Grayson Perry talks about art and the art world with a love and lack of pretension that is inspiring, informative and very funny.
Stewart Tame
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I honestly had never heard of Grayson Perry before. The cover caught my attention, and the subject sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a go. I’m mildly intrigued by the brief references to his own art that he makes during the course of the book--the references, I mean, though I'm sure he made art as well. Anyway, I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of his work, prose or otherwise.

So what this is is a book that attempts to demystify the art world. Over the last hundred years or so, Art
Apr 30, 2019 rated it liked it
accessible and funny commentary on the art world!
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book let me dive back into the contemporary art world for a hot minute.
Simon Puglisi
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved this brilliant, intelligent, and hilarious tour of art, artistic life, and the art world, by Turner-Prize-winning artist, Grayson Perry (who is everywhere these days). The book is based heavily on Perry's 2013 Reith Lectures (, which are well worth a listen too, and might even be preferred over this book, for the subtleties in Perry's extremely amusing live performance. ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading this little, but higly informational book with its funny illustrations,felt like I have just had a good chat over a coffee with Grayson Perry himself. Brilliant, without any need of International Art English other than explaining its origin and a good example of how you get the metaphysical seasickness from reading that sort of text.
Paul Taylor
Feb 28, 2015 rated it liked it
A light hearted and irreverent look at the art world by one of its more engaging characters.
Stephen Sharkey
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinarily fun. Invaluable insider's take on the weird world of contemporary art. ...more
Charlotte Jones
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, art
I picked up this book in a charity shop about a year ago and hadn't got to it until now but I have been interested in it since it's publication in 2014.

I have always considered myself a creative person but have always preferred older, more traditional artworks over contemporary art. This book explains Perry's experience as an artist nowadays and the way that contemporary art is created. It is a very philosophical look and has really made me think about my own views on the subject more. There are
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My new favourite dinner party favourite guest. Drank all of his stories on art and being an artist.
Matthew Tyas
Jun 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I found this to be a good introduction to the world of contemporary art and an interesting insight into the life of a professional modern artist. I thought the discussion around post modern art and the final chapter on Perry's life and how he became an artist to be the most interesting portion of the book. All's told an interest, brief and engaging book that didn't make a huge impact on me but has got me thinking about art more. ...more
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'beautiful is entirely conditioned: things we regard as beautiful do not possess some innate quality of beauty, we have just become used to regarding something as beautiful through exposure and reinforcement. Beauty is very much about familiarity, reinforcing an idea we have already. It’s a constructed thing built up on shifting layers.' ...more
Bryce Galloway
Mar 15, 2021 rated it liked it
An easy read. Too easy?
Perhaps I’m not the audience for this book. Perhaps it’s for those for whom contemporary art is a bit of a mystery. As a fine art lecturer of 19 years, that’s not me. All of Perry’s musings have dawned on me before now. Seeing them in print wasn’t a case of, “Gosh, I’m not alone,” more a case of, “And?” Guess it goes some way to demystifying the genius artist wankery that sometimes hovers around art, or is perpetuated by those in the biz.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it

4.5 Stars!

“It’s easy to feel insecure around art and its appreciation, as though we cannot enjoy certain artworks if we don’t have a lot of academic and historical knowledge. But if there is one message I want you to take away it’s that anybody can enjoy art and anybody can have a life in the arts-even me! For even I, an Essex transvestite potter, have been let in by the art-world mafia.”

There are no shortage of books out there tackling the ever prickly subject of art and what it is. It’s a noto
Oscar Cremmen
Mar 02, 2018 rated it liked it
It's Warhol actually, as in holes, Andy Warhol ...more
Helen Felgate
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I just love Grayson Perry. Both engaging and accessible this is a very thought provoking book about the big question "What is art?" Perry, as a potter was himself an outsider initially in the art world when pottery was perceived as a craft rather than an art form . His insights into the art world are entertaining and illuminating.
My favourite quote for people who are wary of art and art galleries and say that they don't understand art is the one from Alan Bennett when acting as a director of th
Aaron Hertzmann
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This book came highly recommended as an accessible introduction to modern art, and the reviews online, and the whimsical illustrations, the casual, accessible writing style, and the large print all gave me high hopes. The author is a Turner-prize winning artist with a very unpretentious public persona. But I found it utterly vexing, if not self-contradictory.

He starts by saying “I want to ask — and answer! — the basic questions that might come up when we enter an art gallery…” But he does not a
Muath Aziz
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, art
A fabulous petite book by a fabulous author. To me it gives a better answer to what art is than Danto's What Art Is that I read recently. Danto is mentioned twice in the book btw.

First of all the name of the book suggests its theme: "[author] wants to show that any of us can appreciate art (after all, there is a reason he's called this book Playing to the Gallery and not 'Sucking up to an Academic Elite')." <--- four punctuations in a row, doesn't look healthy lol.

"It's easy to feel insecure aro
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Starting with the good, I love the illustrations throughout this book, I loved the fourth chapter, I Found Myself in the Art World, and I love Grayson Perry as an artist. The fourth chapter is personal, straight, humorous, and has enjoyable anecdotes. The rest, however, is a watered down series of half-observations on what art is, and how it exists in the 'art world'. Although I accept that some of the observations on high art have accuracy, they are too simplified and miss some of the key point ...more
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I like Grayson Perry's down-to-earth style, gentle humour, and sharp insights into the art world. It's a light, informative, and accessible read with some fun illustrations and I definitely want to read more of his work. ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
A charming little book discussing the art world of today in an eye level, some humor and lots and lots of heart and love.
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The world of art has long been a part of mine. Growing up with an artist for a mom means that to some extent or another it has been there for me. As I grew up I was fortunate enough to visit art galleries all over the world which means I have seen works from Leonardo and Raphael to Kathe Kollwitz, Olafur Eliasson, and Tracey Eminn. But this doesn't mean I always understand it, some times I will look at a piece and scratch my head and think what going on here. I am at a loss as to just what the ...more
I decided to read Playing to the Gallery hoping to find an answer to a common situation when I walk in a contemporary art museum, I wander around and I realize that some of the pieces I have just seen have no message for me. Is that embarrassing? Is there a subtle message that I should be ashamed with my ignorance? Or is it just my personal selection between good and bad art?

"It’s easy to feel insecure around art and its appreciation as though we cannot enjoy certain artworks if we don’t have a
Simon Howard
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book as it prompted me to think about interesting questions that I'm rarely prompted to consider, like "what is art?".

I'm a bit of a moron when it comes to art. I have an embarrassing lack of general knowledge, and though I'll wander round galleries now and again, I think my engagement is pretty superficial. I can appreciate the technique of classical paintings and sculpture and so on, and I'm often taken with the creativity and sideways thinking that goes into a lot of mod
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I am still gathering my thoughts on this book, but these are the observations I've made so far:

Perry doesn't answer any questions regarding art (questions which have been milked for quite some time i.e. "What is art?" etc.), and gives multiple winded anecdotes that may brush upon that question, but ultimately leaves the reader with this formed but fuzzy idea of what the possible response may be. The tone of the book is conversational and not biblical, which I appreciated as it shone in comparis
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