Transvestite potter takes the Turner
"I think the art world had more difficulty coming to terms with me being a potter than my choice of frocks."
Story in full THE Turner Prize's reputation for courting controversy remained safe last night as Grayson Perry, a transvestite potter, was named the 2003 winner of the prize.
Perry, 43, collected the £20,000 award at a ceremony at Tate Britain in London, dressed as his alter-ego Claire.
While Perry's personal appearance and the kind of subject matter he addresses in his work including sex and child abuse have some capacity to shock, the win is a rare victory for a traditional art form.
Collecting the prize, Perry said: "It's about time a transvestite potter won the Turner Prize."
He added, with reference to his chosen medium, "I think the art world had more difficulty coming to terms with me being a potter than my choice of frocks.
"I only want to thank one person, my wife Philippa she's been my best
editor, sponsor, supporter and mainly my lover. Thank you."
The artist was wearing a frock specially commissioned for the ceremony which had cost £2,500.
Perry is best known for his ceramic works, producing classically shaped vases covered with figures, patterns and text.
The dark subject matter depicted on his pots is at first disguised by their colourful, decorative appearance. His chosen topics include autobiographical images of himself, Claire and his family, as well as politics.
He also references his troubled upbringing in Essex and relationship with his parents.
Perry's elegantly painted vases boast such titles as The piece features an image of a distraught mother next to her lifeless baby. A man walking away appears to be the perpetrator of the crime.
The artist has said: "Most people reading the title will think of paedophiles, but over 90 per cent of all child murders are committed by the parents."
The jury was led by the Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota. He said: "I don't think the choice is a strategic choice, I think the jury felt strongly that these were the works of a very strong artist who happens to be using ceramics and drawing. I don't think this is the year of the pot."
Perry joked that he did not anticipate a rush to follow his lead. "There wasn't a rush of taxidermists following Damien Hirst's success."
He said he expected to spend the prize money on his wife, motor bikes and his daughter's school fees.
The Turner Prize is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. It is given to a British artist under 50 for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation in the 12 months prior to the May closing date.
Perry topped a list of finalists that included the Scots sculptor Anya Gallaccio, the photographer and film-maker Willie Doherty, and the Chapman brothers, Jake and Dinos.
Paisley-born Gallaccio is considered one of the leading artists in her field and yet, due to the nature of her work, few people can acquire them.
Using ephemeral materials, such as flowers, ice and grass, the majority of the Paisley-born artist's creations rot before they can be bought. Gallaccio's work centres on her interest in cycles of transformation and degeneration.
In the Turner exhibition, Gallaccio showed a new fascination with non-natural materials. One piece, Because I Could Not Stop juxtaposes a bronze apple tree with real apples draped over its branches.
Willie Doherty uses his media, photography and video, to tackle the complexities of his upbringing in Northern Ireland.
Much of his work refers to an undercurrent of fear, oppression and uncertainty. His Turner installation Re-Run shows a man running along a bridge at night, projected on to two screens opposite each other. One shows him running towards the viewer, the other away, in an endless silent loop and without any context.
Easily the most outrageous of this year's nominees, the Chapmans, Jack and Dinos, have attracted much criticism with their installations at Tate Britain.
One piece, Death, consisted of a bronze sculpture of two blow-up dolls placed in an explicit position on an inflatable mattress, while another, Sex, depicts human remains chained to a tree. The third piece, caused the most outcry in the art world.
The duo took etchings of Goya's The Disasters of War and reworked them, painting Mickey Mouse and clown heads directly on to the pieces, and, in the opinion of some critics, desecrating Goya's work.
According to Professor Roger Palmer of Glasgow School of Art, this year's finalists were of a high calibre.
"I think all five artists are very diverse in their approaches and so the exhibition stands up pretty well in comparison to previous ones," he said.