‘They belong here’: Salisbury Cathedral exhibits Grayson Perry tapestries | Grayson Perry

The vibrant colors are sure to catch the eye, but the subject matter – from the tattooed caged fighters to the famous leader reimagined as a God – will surprise, challenge, and even enrage visitors to one of England’s most historic religious buildings. .

Grayson Perry’s The Vanity of Small Differences – six vivid tapestries, each 4m by 2m, filled with biblical scenes and themes telling a story of class and social ascent – is on display in the cathedral’s nave from Salisbury this summer. This is the first time that the tapestries have been exhibited in an ecclesiastical setting.

As the final tapestry was hung on Tuesday, the Very Reverend Nicholas Papadopulos, the Dean of Salisbury, admitted the artwork might not appeal to all visitors to Wiltshire Cathedral, but said the old building was in makes the perfect place to see it.

“On the one hand, Perry’s titles and many of his forms are drawn from medieval sacred art,” he said. For example, the tapestry The Adoration of the Cage Fighters is a nod to paintings like The Adoration of the Shepherds by Andrea Mantegna, while The Agony in the Parking Lot references The Agony in the Garden. by Giovanni Bellini.

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“The originals were inspired by buildings like the cathedral and the stories told here. What we’re doing is coming full circle. We’re giving these tapestries back to the building that inspired the paintings that inspired Perry. they belong here, in a sense.

Papadopulos said the topic highlighted in the 10-year-old work was more relevant than ever. “Perry is interested in social cohesion and social division. Since the creation of these tapestries, we have had Brexit, Covid, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis.

“What I think tapestries do is give us perspective of how we are seen; Perry’s take on what our society looks like. It is entirely valid and appropriate that they are shown here.

Visitors admire the Expulsion From Number 8 Eden Close tapestry. Photography: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

Watching The Adoration of the Cage Fighters again, Papadopulos spotted a strange coincidence. The tattoo on the back of one of the fighters appears to show Archangel Michael battling Satan. Just above is a stained glass window depicting the same scene. “I just saw this,” he said. “It’s nice.”

Over the past decade, the tapestries have been exhibited in galleries, museums and stately homes. Perry was not at the cathedral for the hanging, but said: ‘This was intended as a public work of art and I wanted to see the tapestries shared with a very wide and varied audience. My hope remains that it will not only delight the eye and engage visitors, but spark a debate about class, taste and British society.

Before they were hung, curator Beth Hughes said she wasn’t sure if the tapestries would feel right in the cathedral. “Until they’re actually in place you don’t know if it will work, but I think they fit into the architecture of the cathedral and really belong there.

“They’ll make some people’s eyes pop and light up, but I’m sure they’ll shock others. I really hope people question their reactions – and if they interact, the artwork art does its job.

Julia P. Cluff