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Grayson Perry: Visual Dialogues – jumping on the review bandwagon

February 2, 2011

A brand new exhibition centring on Turner-prize winning artist Grayson Perry previewed on 31st January at Manchester Art Gallery. The exhibition was co-curated by a group of local teenagers, who worked with artists Jim Medway and Katy McCall and gallery staff, as part of Tate’s Visual Dialogues programme for young people.


The Creative Consultants talk Grayson through their exhibition.

Having started out as an intern with the Interpretation Development team at MAG last July, I’ve been involved with this year’s Visual Dialogues kids right from the start; I welcomed them as they first entered the education studios with some trepidation, watched as their little seedlings of ideas took root and blossomed, encouraged them as they struggled to balance their curating commitments with their exams, and looked on with pride as they gave Grayson a private tour of their exhibition on the opening night.

Looking back on the last six months, I’m struck by how far we’ve come. We initially began by discussing ‘what is curation?’ and ‘what is interpretation?’ and ran workshops that focussed on how we go about interpreting artworks. Once exposed to the two Grayson Perry pieces recently acquired by the gallery, we began to develop themes: Art vs Craft, Under the Surface, Mixing Histories: past & present, Social/Political, Gender & Identity, the use of text in art. These were the key themes that emerged and the ones we carried through to the final exhibition.

Go to the exhibition. Have a look. See you if can spot the themes!

In addition to developing themes, our ‘creative consultants’ also had the opportunity to rummage around the gallery’s stores at Platt Hall Gallery of Costume to select individual pieces to compliment Perry’s works. If you visit the exhibition, you will see a rather eclectic and unlikely selection of objects displayed side by side; these may look cobbled together at first sight, but each was carefully chosen to reflect the myriad layers of meaning we found in Perry’s creations.

Visual Dialogues has certainly been a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, giving our local teenagers a very special opportunity to work with a renowned gallery on a high-profile exhibition, which in turn enabled them to communicate with professionals, see what happens ‘backstage’ in a gallery, and learn a whole selection of new skills. Above all, I hope that the project has inspired and encouraged our young consultants to pursue their interest in the arts and that they feel a sense of belonging to the gallery.

It’s a great shame that this year’s Visual Dialogues is almost at an end.* We’ll be going out with a bang on 12th February when the I Heart event, organised by the young people, will take place. We have all sorts of exciting activities lined up (including a tea party!), so you should definitely pop in. The event runs 15:00-17:00 on Saturday, 12th February.

The exhibition will remain open for a full year (until 12th February 2012), so there really is no excuse not to call in!


Grayson poses with the Creative Consultants and his vase, 'Jane Austen in E17'.

*Just one final (serious) note: as if it isn’t sad enough that this year’s programme is coming to a close (I’m going to miss everyone!), there’s also talk that Visual Dialogues is ending permanently, due to the proposed scrapping of the funding on this scheme. If this Grayson Perry exhibition is the last one, then what a great way to go! but I think you’d all agree that it would be a huge loss if this project is scrapped altogether. I hope you’ll join us in fighting against these cuts. It’s collaborative projects like Visual Dialogues that really make a difference to young people’s lives.

For more info about the exhibition:

And to watch the video about Visual Dialogues: (thank you, Asta Films!)


Mari (follow me on twitter @_marielliott)

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