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Angry early works from Grayson Perry's "pre-therapy" years reunited for Bath show

Collectors, enthusiasts and friends loan works that channel subculture of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain

Whore of Essex (1986) courtesy Holburne Museum

Before he became a National Treasure and his pots were put behind glass cases in swanky galleries selling popular merchandise, Grayson Perry was an angry young man, channelling the subculture of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain into wry, funny and powerful ceramics. Around 70 works from the “pre-therapy years”—as he has termed the period—have been reunited for the first time at The Holburne Museum in Bath thanks to a public call-out. More than 150 works, including Whore of Essex (around 1986), were given for the exhibition by “collectors, enthusiasts and friends”, according to the curator Catrin Jones. The show covers the period from when Perry left art college in 1982 until his first major gallery exhibition with Anthony d’Offay in 1994. Despite the urgency and anger displayed in many of the works, the subject matter is often ambiguous, subtle and less on-the-nose than much of his more recent work. There are early versions of Perry’s signature motifs—motorbikes, transvestites, idealised women, Essex landscapes—as well as his frank use of text, such as on a pot from 1988. “It’s getting harder to be cynical, when so many […] millions are poor and homeless, rainforests disappear,” he declares, “but I’m alright jack, it makes great subject matter and lends one credibility”. After opening at the Holburne Museum, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years will travel to York Art Gallery (12 June-20 September 2020) and Sainsbury Centre, Norwich (October 2020-February 2021).

Grayson Perry: the Pre-Therapy Years, The Holburne Museum, Bath, 24 January-25 May