Grayson Perry on contemporary art

This is from the Perry autobiography, when he’s been accepted at Portsmouth Poly to do an Art foundation course:

I thought I was OK as an artist. I knew I was able but I had no sense that I was especially gifted. I don’t think a gift is apparent at nineteen in a contemporary artist. Contemporary art demands a voice, though few artists have found their voice at nineteen. What is apparent in young work is the technical skill – Raphael drew like an angel at fifteen – as well as an aptitude for the more physical aspects of the work, but the voice and the emotional intelligence come later. I didn’t have that and my work was very derivative. I don’t think it was peculiar that nobody thought that I would do well in the art world and it was probably better for me than if I had been pumped up as a good artist. I was an average artist bumbling on.

I’d like to think that would be an interesting paragraph even to someone who disliked contemporary art. Perhaps that’s too optimistic.

Not that there necessarily has to be a choice between ‘technical skill’ and ‘voice’ and ‘emotional intelligence’. There’s no doubt that artists like Velasquez, Rembrandt or [insert name here] had all three. But I think if people who were unsympathetic to contemporary art thought of it as art which favoured voice and emotional intelligence over displays of technical virtuosity, they might understand it better. They might still decide they didn’t like it, but at least they’d have tried to approach it on its own terms.

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