Grayson Perry - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, June 7, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Fusing the traditional medium of tapestry with a characteristically witty commentary on contemporary culture, Grayson Perry’s Map of Truths and Beliefs draws inspiration from historic textiles and medieval maps to create a humorous, thought-provoking, and modern meditation on the concepts of pilgrimage and the afterlife, rendered in vividly coloured threads.


    The genesis of Perry’s Map of Truths and Beliefs stemmed from the artist’s desire to make “a sort of altarpiece, a map of heaven” for his imaginative exhibition The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, held at The British Museum in 2011. The project featured 30 works by the Turner Prize winner which were displayed alongside 170 objects handpicked by the artist from the museum’s collection. Spanning treasures of antiquity to more contemporary artefacts, the exhibition featured works rendered in a variety of media, many of which were produced by now-unidentifiable artists from numerous countries and cultures. Intended to be exhibited in dialogue with The British Museum’s eclectic holdings, the 30 works that Perry created for the display paid homage to the artistic techniques and aesthetics of the past while simultaneously demonstrating concerns for modern craftsmanship and the contemporary experience.


    Grayson Perry, "The Tomb of The Unknown Craftsman" at the British Museum, London October 5, 2011. Image: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

    “The figures are from my personal iconography. The woman in black represents the contemporary world, the bear is raw emotion, the boy, innocent reason, and the woman in folk costume stands for tradition.”
    — Grayson Perry

    Map of Truths and Beliefs is a bold example of Perry’s deliberate fusion of past and present, demonstrated in both the artist’s iconography and through the medium of tapestry itself. Conceptually inspired by Medieval pilgrimage maps, Map of Truths and Beliefs purports to document the geography of an ethereal land – an application of empirical devices to convey emotive issues that Perry finds inherently comical but equally intriguing. At the very centre of the tapestry, inside the Eye of Providence, is Perry’s beloved teddy bear Alan Measles – the artist’s “personal metaphor for God”. Surrounding the eye, the sprawling floorplan of The British Museum forms a mandala, with the rooms now relabelled with various terms for the afterlife such as Heaven, Jahannam, and Nirvana. The juxtaposition of past and present continues in Perry’s figures – a woman in folk costume represents tradition, while a female figure in black holding two mobile phones signifies the contemporary world and consumerism. The backdrop of the tapestry is an expansive landscape rendered in psychedelic colours, littered with innumerable gravestones, and punctuated with buildings designating sites of pilgrimage. Some of these locations are religious sites and connect with the conventional understanding of places of pilgrimage, such as Mecca, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem. Others, however, are very secular tourist destinations, such as Las Vegas, Graceland, and the Champs-Élysées. Perry’s conflation of prosaic locations with sacred sites humorously highlights instances of continuity as well as huge changes in attitudes between historic and contemporary cultures. 


    Details of present lot

    “The charge of it is in the clash of the prosaic and the spiritual. I was thinking of pilgrimage in a wider, non-religious sense, so I included places of pilgrimage that I’d googled. Most are religious but many are historical and secular.”  — Grayson Perry

    Traditionally depicting classical myths, religious scenes, and epic battles, tapestry is one of the oldest forms of textile art and was a medium historically reserved to decorate grand houses and insulate large domestic interiors. A highly intricate art form, examples such as the Portiere du la Char Triomphe - designed by Charles Le Brun under the reign of Louis XIV - took six people approximately three years to weave before it supposedly adorned the walls of Versailles in the 18th Century. Depicting a triumphal chariot decorated with the arms and attributes of Louis XIV, the tapestry is infused with symbolism. When the present lot was exhibited alongside the Portiere du la Char Triomphe in the National Trust’s 2016 exhibition Truth + Triomphe at Castle Drogo, Devon, the comparable emphasis that Perry places on symbolism in Map of Truths and Beliefs became increasingly evident. The narrative format and religious underpinning of his work pay further homage to the wider genre of grandiose tapestries. Exhibited together, the two tapestries side-by-side highlighted Perry’s radical diversion from convention through his highly contemporary subject matter, but also reinforced the modernisation of the medium itself. Hand drawn by Perry, the design for Map of Truths and Beliefs was digitised by Factum Arte and subsequently woven on a computer-operated loom in less than a day by Flanders Tapestries in Belgium.


    Charles le Brun, Portiere du la Char Triomphe. Image: National Trust Photographic Library/Jane Smith / Bridgeman Images








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    • Provenance

      Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012

    • Exhibited

      Truth + Triomphe, Castle Drogo, Devon, 2016

Property from a Private UK Collection


Map of Truths and Beliefs

Wool and cotton tapestry in colours.
200.3 x 478 cm (78 7/8 x 188 1/4 in.)
Signed and numbered '9' in black ink on the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity, from the edition of 12 (there were also 3 artist's proofs), published by The Paragon Press, London.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £76,200

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 7 - 8 June 2023