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Scenes from Hello! Magazine

Scenes from Hello! Magazine
stamped with artist's monogram (at the base)
glazed ceramic
21 5/8 x 10 1/4 x 10 1/4in. (55 x 26 x 26cm.)
Executed in 1996
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London.
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 24 June 2004, lot 117.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Grayson Perry, 1996-1997.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Held in the same private collection for almost two decades, Scenes from Hello! Magazine (1996) is an extraordinary example of the witty social commentary that lies at the heart of Grayson Perry’s ceramic practice. Against a glazed background of rich royal blue, the artist presents us with an eclectic myriad of motifs, amongst which stand four large sgraffito sketches of female public figures. As its title suggests, Perry borrowed these portraits from the glossy pages of Hello! Magazine, taking its popular headlines from the mid-90s and transporting them onto the surface of his handcrafted pot. He presents images of Camilla Parker Bowles, now Queen Consort, clad in an elaborately patterned shawl; Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, pictured during her battle with hair loss, sporting a pale blue suit; Ivana Trump, shortly before her divorce from her husband Donald Trump; and Princess Diana of Wales stepping out of a taxi in a red dress. By trapping these fleeting paparazzi shots within his gilded, golden vase, Perry re-contextualises the tawdry gossip of the glossy magazine, eternalising it within his art, and lending it the status of a Byzantine relic. At once sober and playful, this work offers both a quiet critique and light-hearted parody of tabloid culture, its humour manifesting most prominently in its whimsical illustrations of cats and dogs, its decoration of autumn leaves, and a snippet of text which reads ‘Naughty Nineties’.

Shortly after its creation, Scenes from Hello! Magazine was featured in the self-titled exhibition Grayson Perry held at Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London: one of the first major solo shows of the artist’s career. In its chorus of associations, the work marks a significant early example of his complex ‘inner landscapes’, a type of work that would come to form a core component of his celebrated practice. ‘The world I draw is the interior landscape of my own personal obsessions and of cultures I have absorbed and adapted’, Perry has stated: ‘I draw a stave church or someone from Hello! Magazine not because I want to replicate how they look, but because of the meaning they bring to the work’ (G. Perry, quoted in ‘Grayson Perry lassos thoughts with a pen’, The Guardian, 19 September 2009).

It was Perry’s vases that first brought him to public prominence, leading him to become the first ceramic artist to be awarded the Turner Prize in 2003. Though influenced by Greek pottery and folk art, and executed using traditional coiling methods, the artist’s pots deploy a complex variety of contemporary techniques, with their virtuosic surfaces boasting processes from glazing and embossing to incision, relief and photographic transfers. Perry views his pottery practice ‘as a vehicle for sharing relatively challenging ideas and images’. The pot, he has said, ‘always remains this stable thing that everybody understands. So you can really push the boat out but it’s still a pot. It was like, I know what that is and that was an anchor for all the other stuff I wanted to put on there’ (G. Perry interviewed by R. Boddington, ‘Defying the Norm’, It’s Nice That, 1 March 2021).

Scenes from Hello! Magazine is a gripping example of this sculptural hybrid, created in a way which not only challenges the traditionally decorative process of pottery, but further manipulates its meaning, transforming the common pot into a vehicle for socio-cultural critique. Indeed, by situating his work during the tabloid-obsessed era of the ’90s, Perry presents us with a cultural memento which is inextricably linked to its time, and which today renders the vase a curious relic from a bygone era. Transporting the public drama of the glossy magazine into the private, or rather domestic, context of the vase, it is a powerful example of Perry’s timeless social rhetoric, and of his triumphant, subversive elevation of ceramics to the realm of contemporary art.

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