LONDON (Reuters) - The unnamed craftsmen who fashioned the countless treasures of the British Museum are to be honored in an exhibition curated by British artist Grayson Perry, the museum said this week.
The cross-dressing ceramicist has selected 190 objects from the museum’s vast collections to be displayed together with his own works.
“Grayson has not just selected objects, he has made his own civilization. It’s unlike anything the British Museum has done in the past — nobody has ever made a rival museum before,” Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, told reporters.
Many of the artifacts selected by the Turner Prize winner are little known, and form a cross-culture mix of the contemporary and the ancient.
An Asante ceremonial deerskin hat from Ghana and Japanese shrines from the Edo period sit alongside Hello Kitty hand towels and Perry’s hair in a ceramic coffin.
“I didn’t choose just to celebrate craftsmen for their precision, but for their dialogue with the materials,” Perry said.
“I have made my choices of objects from the British Museum collection because of their connections with each other and with my own work. Sometimes the connection is in their function, sometimes in their subject and often in their form,” he said.
“One thing that connects all my choices is my delight in them.”
Perry’s new work, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, an iron coffin-ship sailing into the afterlife, is strung with casts of objects from the museum’s collections.
The ship serves as a memorial to these anonymous craftsmen and a site of pilgrimage for visitors to contemplate the care that went into the creation of the artifacts, according to Perry.
“The British Museum is the greatest site of pilgrimage in Britain. When I initially proposed the idea of the exhibition, I wanted to be part of the grandeur and huge significance of the museum,” he said.
At the center of the ship is an example of a 250,000-year-old flint hand axe — “the tool that begat all tools.”
“The whole of civilization revolves around the moment when we started to have control over the world and adapt it to us, rather than having to adapt to it, and that to me is an incredibly moving thing,” Perry said.
The ceramicist said he hoped the exhibition would encourage visitors to form their own opinions about art.
“The nicest compliment people can pay is to be inspired by the exhibition, and want to make something, or look at the world afresh,” he said.
Perry won the Turner Prize in 2003, famously accepting the 25,000 pound ($38,455)award wearing a Shirley Temple dress.
The exhibition “The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman” runs from Oct 6, 2011 to Feb 19, 2012. ($1 = 0.650 British Pounds)
Edited by Paul Casciato