Omicron put paid to Grayson Perry celebrating the fact that he was the first Brit to be awarded the Netherland's prestigious—and lucrative—€150,000 Erasmus Prize since Henry Moore in 1968.
The award is the Dutch equivalent of the Nobel Prize, given annually to a person or institution that has made “an exceptional contribution to the humanities, the social sciences or the arts” with past recipients including Charlie Chaplin, Ingmar Bergman, Oskar Kokoschka, Sigmar Polke and Marc Chagall. The 2021 theme was "The Power of the Image in the Digital Era" and Perry was chosen for developing “a unique visual language, demonstrating that art belongs to everybody and should not be an elitist affair”.
Instead of the grand award ceremony in the Amsterdam Palace of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, the 2021 prize was presented by the king over Zoom back in December. However last week Perry was given a belated celebration by the Dutch Ambassador Karel J.G van Oosterom who, with his artist wife Anna, hosted a small (and socially distanced) dinner in the artist’s honour at the ambassadorial residence in South Kensington.
Here, resplendent in a fuchsia pink frock, Perry received the ambassador’s personal gift of a bolt of fabric printed with designs of Rembrandt paintings, which Perry promised to get made up into an old-masterly outfit for when he eventually gets to meet the king in person.
The artist, who took singing lessons during lockdown, included a number of musical interludes in his recent live stand-up performance A Show For Normal People. He revealed that he had written a song especially to perform at the award ceremony which he is keeping under wraps until the event is rescheduled.
While there were no songs forthcoming at the ambassador’s dinner, the ever-versatile Perry, whose many modus operandi span from pottery to tapestry, print-making to customised motor bikes and TV presenting, disclosed that he was currently collaborating on a musical based on his life story.
There’s no opening date for this new opus but it shows Perry putting his Erasmus nomination into practice by using his newly-honed skill to extend the language of his art to even wider audiences. However he is the first to admit that, while now a pretty competent vocalist, he’s got no plans to tread the boards himself. Quite who will step into his multicoloured Mary Janes to assume the leading role remains to be seen.