Playing To the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in It’s Struggle to Be Understood [Book Review] 1


Playing to the Galley Grayson Perry

Playing To the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in It’s Struggle to Be Understood by Grayson Perry (Penguin Random House) is a exploration of the contemporary art world that aims to prove through Perry’s own experiences and ideas that “anybody can enjoy art and anybody can have a life in the arts.”

If you’ve ever thought that the world around art is beyond pretentious, that the language used to describe and explain art is beyond comprehension, or that acceptance in the art scene is beyond your grasp, then you’ll want to check out Playing to the Gallery. 

Perry, “a Turner prize-winning artist and cross-dresser also known as Claire,” knows that 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.” He wants to dispel this notion and remind the public that art is for anyone who wants to appreciate it.

…there is a reason he’s called this book ‘Playing to the Gallery’ and not ‘Sucking up to an Academic Elite’.) … full of words and pictures, this funny, personal journey through the art world answers the basic questions that might occur to us in an art gallery but seem too embarrassing to ask.

Questions such as:

  • What is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ art – and does it even matter?
  • Is there any way to test if something is art, other than a large group of people standing around looking at it?
  • Is art still capable of shocking us or have we seen it all before?
  • Can you be a ‘lovable character’ and a serious artist – what is a serious artist anyway?
  • And what happens if you place a piece of art in a rubbish dump?

I was lucky enough to enjoy the majority of the book while sitting in the sun on my back deck on an absolutely gorgeous spring day, which may have swayed my opinion slightly, but I found myself grinning, laughing, and occasionally snickering right into the first few pages. 

A fairly quick read that is a lighter take on the art world than many other attempts, Playing to the Gallery is full of fun ideas and potential conversation pieces for anyone interested in contemporary art.

Grab your own copy Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry and be sure to let CAC know what you think about the book in the comments below.


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