• Image showing to people sat on white benches looking at bright tapestries
  • Two people looking at Grayson Perry works on display in a gallery
  • Grayson Perry works on display in a gallery
  • Two bright tapestries on display in The Gallery

Grayson Perry: Essex House Tapestries - The Life of Julie Cope 

15 March – 12 June 2024 

The Gallery at The Arc, Winchester

This March, two exquisite, large-scale tapestries by one of the UK´s leading visual artists will be on display in The Arc, Winchester. Grayson Perry´s Essex House Tapestries - The Life of Julie Cope (2015) exhibition, on loan from the Crafts Council, arrives in Hampshire for the first time this spring. The exhibition will give visitors a chance to see one of the touchstones in the extraordinary career of the Essex-born and Portsmouth-trained artist (b.1960). 

The tapestries were first designed on a computer by the artist, then translated by skilled tapestry weavers to create the finished result: a story in two parts of Julie Cope - a fictional creation of Perry´s. Illustrating key events in the heroine´s journey, the first charts Julie´s early years from birth to marriage, while the second details her later years, another marriage and tragic accident that leads to her death. Both tapestries are packed full of cultural and architectural details, conveyed in bright colours and an extravagant style that is emblematic of Perry´s work. 

Visitors to The Gallery will be able to take in both tapestries together, spotting the impending signs of unhappiness in the first tapestry and the sad resolutions in the second. Drawing on specific Essex locales, the series incorporates a universality that depicts the highs and lows of existing in the social conditions of modern Britain, something that visitors of all ages and areas can relate to.

The tapestries were created in 2015 for A House for Essex – a house in Wrabness, North Essex, designed by the Turner prize winning artist for the Living Architecture project. The first edition of the work hangs in the house and this set is being toured by the Crafts Council

“The Crafts Council are very happy to have acquired such ambitious works by Grayson Perry into its Collection’” said Deborah Ridley, Senior Collections and Programme Manager. “The works tell a beautiful narrative that the viewer can become immersed in, continuing the long tradition of textiles as a vehicle for storytelling. It is our goal to share our collection as far and wide as possible, so we are honoured to be making these works available at The Arc, Winchester.”

The series is a significant work in the career of one of the country’s most celebrated artists. Trained at Portsmouth Polytechnic, Grayson Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003 and became a Royal Academician in 2011. His large ceramic pots covered in irreverent texts and drawings are instantly recognisable, and his impact on British culture was recognised when he received a knighthood last year. 

Alongside the tapestries will be a specially commissioned audio read by Perry himself. The Ballad of Julie Cope is a 3,000-word narrative that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life. 

“We are thrilled to be welcoming these exceptional works from one of the UK’s greatest contemporary artists to The Arc and Hampshire,” commented Kirsty Rodda, Visual Arts Exhibitions Manager at Hampshire Cultural Trust, which operates The Arc. “We would particularly like to acknowledge the role that the Crafts Council has played in loaning us the tapestries, allowing the beauty of these thought-provoking works to be shared in Hampshire.” 

More information and how to book tickets to see Grayson Perry´s Essex House Tapestries - The Life of Julie Cope (2015), are available at https://www.arcwinchester.org.uk/event/grayson-perry-essex-house-tapestries-life-julie-cope

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