Grayson Perry sets the boundaries

posted by Bridget on 28 October 2013

In this year's Reith Lectures, broadcast on Radio 4, Grayson Perry raises a laugh when considering photography as art

We are half way through this year's series of Reith Lectures and Grayson Perry has already shown himself to be bold and brash in his tackling of the thorny questions surrounding contemporary art.

In the first lecture he asked questions around quality and examined who defines what we see and value as art. Positing the suggestion that "Democracy has Bad Taste" he explained how art is validated; the processes; the cliques; the difficulties of entering the hallowed temples of the art establishment.

For his second lecture he offered some advice to the ordinary art lover about how they can decide what is and what isn't art. Perry acknowledged in a post modern art world, where a generation of artists have been raised on Joseph Beuys's conceit that everyone could be an artist, it can be difficult to sift through a fair amount of rubbish to find the gems.

Perry is clearly uncomfortable with the unexpurgated amount of work that is presented as art, and for the most part he has valid things to say about the sheer amount of work that is produced today in the name of art.

So it was a shame, ignorant and not to say a little snobbish of Perry to dismiss photography as being little more than a pretentious Instagram, a craftless medium compromised by its accessibility to the masses.

"We live in an age now where photography rains on us like sewage from above - you know endless Instasnaps on your phone everywhere.".

Unable to grasp the idea that photography could be used by artists to make art, he elicited the help of Martin Parr to validate the medium and shine a light on what defines art photography over any other sort of photo. In a reply, which almost had me choking on my cornflakes, Parr was quoted as having said: "Well if it's bigger than two metres and it's priced higher than five figures".

So there we have it, from the Godfather of the British photography scene, size does indeed matter.

To listen to the Reith Lectures click here.

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