Grayson’s Art Club – The Exhibition (Manchester Art Gallery)

There were a few things that saved my sanity during the year of we dare not speak its name (although let’s be fair, its heir apparent promised so much but whilst the start left a lot to be desired, we’re slowly but surely seeing the light at the end of the tunnel).

I thank the world (and never thought I would) for Facetime, Zoom (although it’s a love/hate relationship), and even MS Teams all brought me metaphorically closer to the outside world and people I cared about.

Netflix. Just Netflix.

Apps. Apps for food, apps for drink, apps for any old thing you care for – all at your fingertips promising goods galore to your doorstep in approximately 25-35 minutes.

But I got to the point where I shied away from anything that even dared hint towards the pandemic which had brought us to our knees. Exposure to the news had to be rationed, I continue to twitch when the announcer assures us that Gogglebox contributers provide their wry (and not so wry) asides whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines, and I didn’t want to watch any more documentaries explaining why I’m sat in my house watching another documentary about why I’m sat in my house and so on and so forth.

But there was Grayson’s Art Club. And whilst it existed because of the sodding pandemic, it became everything. People unleashing their passions, emotions, frustrations and above all creativity, all encouraged by the wonderful artist and general human being, Grayson Perry. With a different theme each week; home, britain, portraits, view from my window, fantasy, animals…the artwork flooded in from all corners of the country and society, alongside works from artists such as Philippa Perry, Anthony Gormley, Grayson himself, of course (Alan Measles is a must see), alongside a sprinkling of celebrity (but the good ones – think Harry Hill, Noel Fielding, Jjoe Lycett, Jenny Eclair – artists in their own right…).

The cherry on the top of the proverbial was the revelation that all of this glorious artwork would be displayed in our equally glorious city of Manchester. As Mr Perry himself said,

I was adamant from the offset that this exhibition would not be staged in London. I love London, I live there, it’s where the centre of the British art world resides but Art Club is not just for the Art World, it is for the whole country. I also wanted it to be held in a grand venue, somewhere that all the artists would be delighted to see their work hanging. So Manchester Art Gallery fulfills this brief perfectly.

Whilst the original intent was to open the exhibition last year…well guess what happened (you’re so predictable COVID). But joyfully, the Gallery has now flung open its doors and we get to see all that wonderful art for ourselves.

I saw those pieces I remembered, some I didn’t, but all I loved. It’s actually an emotional experience to wander the floor (indeed all art should evoke emotion, of course) and wander that floor you should. Whilst here I’ve included a small selection of some of the artwork on display, it’s simply an amuse bouche and urge you to grab a knife and fork and dig into this feast of creativity. I also urge you to ignore that terrible, terrible analogy and join me in putting it down to too much sun sat in Ancoats, yesterday, after the worst summer on record (probably).

Until we hit that next destination on the roadmap of hope and dreams, tickets are a must (but free!). So whilst currently booked up, keep vigilant and head over to Moseley Street as soon as restrictions allow:

You can also see the wonderful art (with stories behind them) in the Grayson’s Art Club book (£15, £10 from the gift shop itself).

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