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A Prize for Perry

Written by Arts, Culture

The artist, writer, and presenter Grayson Perry has been awarded the 2020 Erasmus Prize in recognition of his contribution to art and society.

The Dutch award, presented annually to a figure who has “made an exceptional contribution to the humanities, the social sciences or the arts”, comes with €150,000 in prize money. Perry expressed his gratitude for the prize, which will be formally presented by King Willem-Alexander in November, writing that he was “extremely touched.” The 59-year-old Essex artist was presented the award “for the insightful way he tackles questions of beauty and craftsmanship while addressing wider social and cultural issues”.

Grayson Perry is one of the most popular and recognisable artists in Britain today, known for his distinctive ceramics and extravagant cross-dressing.

Grayson Perry is one of the most popular and recognisable artists in Britain today, known for his distinctive ceramics and extravagant cross-dressing. He is also a successful communicator of art, and has made frequent television appearances presenting BAFTA-winning documentaries and on programmes such as Have I Got News for You and Gogglebox. Perry rose to public prominence after winning the 2003 Turner Prize, and since then he has been dissecting the tastes, tribes, and stories within British society to great acclaim.

The award is named after Erasumus of Rotterdam, the Dutch Humanist philosopher, and winners often embody his Humanist principles in some way.

Since 1958, the Erasmus prize has been annually awarded to a person or organization to recognize their contribution to society. Previous winners include Charlie Chaplin, Marc Chagall and Wikipedia. The last British visual artist to win was Henry Moore in 1968, and Perry described his “imposter syndrome” in response to being ranked among such luminaries. The award is named after Erasumus of Rotterdam, the Dutch Humanist philosopher, and winners often embody his Humanist principles in some way. Perry was praised for his ability to create “a platform for an open and inclusive debate” and for “demonstrating that art belongs to everybody and should not be an elitist affair”.

The award is themed every year, and this year’s theme is ‘The power of the image in the digital era’, which is a topic Perry has often explored in his work. The Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, which presents the award, claimed that “at a time when we are constantly bombarded with images, Perry has developed a unique visual language.” Rather than receiving the prize for a particular piece of art, it is in recognition of his achievements in general. The judges also credited “the insightful way he tackles questions of beauty and craftsmanship while addressing wider social and cultural issues.”

Last modified: 13th March 2020

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