To celebrate the Frieze Art Fair opening in London today, we photographed and interviewed a selection of the fantastic artists who will be passing through the capital this week (see the November issue of Esquire, out now). Among them was Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry, who ditched the petticoats and patent pumps of his alter-ego, Claire, in favour of a rather nice double-breasted Lanvin suit. He also shared some choice thoughts on the art world, and his place in it.
The person in the art world whom I most admire is... Neil MacGregor at the British Museum. He is a fantastic cultural ambassador — like a super well-informed vicar. Also, I greatly admire Nicholas Serota. He has played a huge part in putting London on the Art Map, therefore making it a great place to be an artist over the last two decades. He steers a steady course between populism and seriousness that is a difficult trick to pull off, and even has a sense of humour.
My greatest occupational hazard is... hubris. I have ambition that can take me into dodgy territory, but it is stimulating. Humility is so much more stylish. Also I drink too much free booze and risk embarrassment all the time as I meet so many people and forget so many names.
I knew I wanted to be an artist when... my art teacher at school said I would do well at art college. I think he could see my troubled unconscious leaking onto the paper.
The piece of work of which I’m most proud is... a giant 150cm vase that took five months to build, called "What’s not to like?" It was a technical, aesthetic, and conceptual success. Also my large etching called "Map of an Englishman", as it has ended up in fabulous collections all over the world and put out the message that I can work in media other than ceramic.
Artists tend to be... poor. I am lucky but I did not earn a living wage from my art until I was in my late thirties. Doing art for money very rarely works, whilst doing art for a love of art might make you money.
The greatest myth about art is... that there is a mafia that won’t let in outsiders. This myth is sustained by bitter, mediocre artists. The basic attitude to artists in the art world is "that’s a good rebellion, welcome in." The art world wants to be challenged and stimulated, but it also secretly loves beauty.
The most important tool of my trade is... awareness of my responses to the world. My job is to notice things. People skills are also very important as no one wants to work with an idiot. Last but not least, a small pointy potter’s knife is essential.
If people take one thing from my work... I want it to be pure visual delight in textures, colours, patterns and detail.
When I’m working I usually wear... French farmers’ overalls encrusted with clay, and a pair of boots I bought in Las Vegas 20 years ago after someone stole mine at a water park.
The medium or material that I’m most interested in right now is... digital tapestry, but I have an ongoing love affair with rusty cast iron.
The future of contemporary art is... that it will probably become more and more diverse.
Grayson Perry's The Walthamstow Tapestry is at Victoria Miro Gallery, London N1, until 7 November.
The Frieze Art Fair is on until 18 October, Regent's Park, London, www.friezeartfair.com
Photograph by Chris Brooks