Created and displayed as part of the major Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum in 2011 and now making its highly anticipated 2020 return upon the Museum’s reopening, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman is a sculpture of an iron ship, sailing into the afterlife. Currently on display in The British Museum, Room 17.
This wonderful catalogue, created to accompany the award-winning exhibition at the British Museum (6 October 2011 – 19 February 2012, Winner of the South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2012 for Visual Art), draws on such intriguing and diverse themes as pilgrimage, shamanism and tomb guardians. British Museum Trustee Grayson Perry takes the reader on a journey to an imaginary afterlife.
“The Tomb of an Unknown Craftsman is of a treasure hoard from a distinct civilisation. The difference is that it is a civilisation of one. The territory it springs from is my imagination. The relationship between my personal themes and obsessions and the vastness of world culture as represented in the British Museum is like a narrow pilgrimage trail across an infinite plain.” Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry’s centrepiece to this fascinating journey is a major artwork: a metal tomb in the form of a ship, encrusted with reliefs and artistic cargo based on, or actually cast from, objects in the collection of the British Museum. The occupant sails into the afterlife surrounded by the talismans of many faiths and peoples. This is a memorial to all the anonymous craftsmen that over the centuries have fashioned the man-made wonders of the world, many of which are on display in the Museum. Around the tomb, the other artworks – ceramics, tiles, cast metal sculpture, textiles and prints – are laid out in ritualistic symmetry as if they once belonged somewhere else. Alongside his own works, Grayson Perry presents a personal selection of objects from the British Museum that are the inspiration for his pieces or connected strongly with them thematically or aesthetically.
Including an introduction by Grayson Perry and lavishly illustrated, this book takes us to the fantasy world of a contemporary artist who never fails to challenge and unsettle his audience. Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry uses the seductive qualities of ceramics, tapestry, metalwork and other art forms to make stealthy comments about societal injustices and hypocrisies, and to explore a variety of historical and contemporary themes.