The Walker: The Vanity of Small Differences – Grayson Perry

The Adoration of the Cage Fighters 2012
The Adoration of the Cage Fighters 2012

16 May – 10 August 2014

Open Daily


Part of Light Night 2014

Six stunning tapestries by Turner Prize winning artist (2003), Grayson Perry explore taste and class in modern Britain.

The Vanity of Small Differences is part of National Museums Liverpool’s Modern Masters series, part funded by the European Union – the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


Perry designed the tapestries as part of a series he made with Channel 4 in 2012, called All in the Best Possible Taste. In the television series Perry went: “on a safari amongst the taste tribes of Britain” (Perry), investigating the tastes of the working class in Sunderland, middle class in Tunbridge Wells and upper class in the Cotswolds.

The fascinating observations Perry made on his journey provide a compelling, snap-shot of modern Britain. Middle class angst, ‘old money’ snobbery and a community shattered by job losses and industrial decline all come under Perry’s scrutiny. Ordinary objects from a football kit, celebrity chef cookbook and Cath Kidston shopping bag, take on new symbolism and provide a rich visual language.

Perry also examines the idea of social mobility between the classes. The tapestries are a modern evocation of A Rake’s Progress, the series of paintings by 18th century artist William Hogarth.

Like Hogarth’s character, Tom Rakewell, Perry’s fictional hero, Tim Rakewell, comes from working class origins, marries into the middle class, makes enough money to buy himself an upper class lifestyle and then dies a tragic death.

Vivid colours, remarkable textures, contrasting patterns and an intriguing commentary which winds through each scene, build a complete picture of the tragic rise and fall of an ordinary man, which “not only delights the eye but also sparks debate about class, taste and British society” (Perry).

Layered on top of this exploration of class and taste, Perry includes visual references to a number of Renaissance paintings in each of the tapestries, creating a timeless quality and the sense of an enduring human condition.