Grayson Perry To Receive RIBA Honorary Fellowship

Grayson Perry

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the 2016 RIBA Honorary Fellowships, which will be awarded to fourteen individuals (of whom two are in partnership) from a diverse spectrum of backgrounds, including the worlds of construction, media, education and the arts.

RIBA Honorary Fellowships are awarded annually to people who have made a particular contribution to architecture in its broadest sense. This includes its promotion, administration and outreach; and its role in building more sustainable communities and in the education of future generations.

Grayson Perry is a very 21st century national treasure. The artist is known equally well for his ceramic pots and his cross-dressing. His ‘classical’pots are decorated ‘graphically’ and there is a strong autobiographical element to all his work, in which images of Perry as Claire, his female alter-ego, often appear.

Perry started pottery lessons in September 1983 at the Central Institute where he was taught by Sarah Sanderson and had his first exhibition just three months later. Perry enjoyed the medium because of ‘the ways artifice could be deployed to make the innocent or honest pot have a purpose and mean something’.

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam mounted a solo exhibition of his work in 2002, which led in 2003 to his becoming the first ceramic artist to win the Turner Prize. He turned up to the awards ceremony with his family, dressed as Claire, wearing a little party dress.

In 2009 he turned his attention to textiles, creating and displaying the enormous (15 metres x 3 metres) Walthamstow Tapestry featuring hundreds of brand names at the London Gallery. As well as being the subject of a number of exhibitions, he has also curated several including The Tomb Of The Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum.

In 2015, working with FAT Architecture and commissioned by Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture, Perry completed Julie’s House, a built autobiographical tribute to his latest creation. 

In 2012 he made a Channel 4 BAFTA-winning documentary series All in the Best Possible Taste with Grayson Perry, about how taste is class-dependent. His other television and radio appearances include BBC’s Question Time, Hard Talk, Desert Island Discs and Have I Got News for You. He has also been the subject of a South Bank Show in 2006 and of a 2011 Imagine documentary on the BBC. In 2013 he presented the Reith Lectures to great acclaim. Entitled Playing to the Gallery, Perry considered the state of art in the 21st Century. In 2014 Perry presented a three-part documentary series for Channel 4, Who Are You.

He is married to author and psychotherapist Philippa Perry. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to contemporary art, choosing a midnight blue ‘Italian mother of the bride’ outfit to wear to collect the award. In 2015 he was appointed chancellor of University of the Arts London in succession to Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Other winners of the the 2016 RIBA Honorary Fellowships are: John Brooks – Vice Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University, Caroline Cole – architectural consultant, Dame Vivien Duffield DBE – philanthropist and client, Kristin Feireiss – architecture curator, writer and edit, Kate Goodwin – Head of Architecture and Drue Heinz Curator, Royal Academy, Charles Knevitt – journalist, author and former Director of the RIBA Trust, Peter and Annaliese Latz – landscape architects, Germany, Sasha Lubetkin – curator, Alison Nimmo CBE, FRICS, MRTPI, FICE – Chief Executive, The Crown Estate, Richard Steer – quantity surveyor and patron of architecture, Gleeds, Martha Thorne – Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, Planner and Urbanist, Heinz Wirz – publisher.

Photo: Paul Black © Artlyst 2015