Grayson Perry hits the ‘Big American Road’

Wednesday: Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip ; (Channel 4, 10pm)

“It’s easy to feel insecure around art and its appreciation,” says Grayson Perry in his book Playing to the Gallery. “But if there’s one message that I want you take away it’s that anybody can enjoy art and anybody can have a life in the arts… For even I, an Essex transvestite potter, have been let in by the art-world mafia.”

Over the past decade or so, Perry has probably done more to promote art and make it accessible than anybody else, certainly in the UK, if not across the world.

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He’s been making documentaries for Channel 4 for years, lifting the lid on various subjects and offering a social commentary on various issues in the process. Then, during the lockdown, he really came into his own by launching Grayson’s Art Club, a weekly series in which he extolled the joys of creativity.

Suddenly people who previously had no interest in art, and probably hadn’t picked up a pencil or paintbrush since their school days, found themselves with time on their hands, which they helped to fill by making something. Perry showcased the best of these on the programme and is planning on holding an exhibition featuring these items.

Perry himself, as well as his psychotherapist wife Philippa and their celebrity guests, also created works which have no doubt proved inspirational. But what really stood out about the programme is how inclusive it was – the Turner Prize-winner is right when he says that the art world can appear daunting to outsiders, but it’s clear he believes that everyone can play a part in it.

Now Perry’s new fans have something else to look forward to – a brand new series filmed last year.

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He’s a keen motorcyclist, so when the opportunity arose for him to take a trip across America, the mode of travel was obvious. But he didn’t opt for an off-the-shelf model; instead, he rode a custom-built Harley-Davidson he designed specifically for his adventure. It’s an incredible machine, but it seems unlikely that the iconic manufacturer will try mass-producing its psychedelic colour scheme…

His goal is to explore some of the big cultural and political fault lines opening up in the country, particularly divisions around race, class, identity and economic opportunity. As with his previous documentaries, Perry will then make artworks inspired by what he’s uncovered.

The opening episode takes him across the American South, from Atlanta, Georgia to the capital, Washington DC, during which he confronts one of the biggest issues in the world today – race.

Perry spends time with members of the African-American community in an attempt to see cultural and political divisions through their eyes. He also meets those who consider themselves to be part of DC’s black elite, all the while reflecting with his characteristic honestly the notion of white privilege and its impact on the world today.

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Future episodes in the three-part series move on to examine identity, money and class.

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