The Turner Prize-winning artist said that while he felt it was “awful” to witness the economic fallout, he believed “every part of life has probably got a bit of fat that needs trimming”.
“It’s awful that the culture sector has been decimated, but I think some things needed to go,” he told Arts Society magazine. “Too often, the audience for culture is just the people making it – theatres with whole audiences of actors, or exhibitions only put on to impress other curators.”
He added: “With Covid, it’s been like turning a computer off and on again, and seeing which files reappear. Some of them we don’t really give a damn about. What’s interesting is what might not re-emerge.”
While Perry’s comments appeared to be directed at the elitism still pervasive in the arts, they have gone down badly among workers made vulnerable due to the financial toll of the pandemic.
Aaron Angell, who runs the Troy Town Pottery in London, told The Guardian that Perry was disconnected from the reality of Covid-19’s effect.
“The people losing their jobs are not the gang of cheek-kissing curators, but the invigilators, educators and hospitality staff that exist to make the museum more accessible,” he said. “They are there to make the audience tackle work a bit more complicated than the words ‘hate speech’ written on a teapot.”
The teapot reference appears to be a jibe over Perry’s ceramics, including teapots, on which he often paints satirical slogans.
“You do have to wonder why a person so successful and ubiquitous needs to spend his days trashing other artists and the curators who put on their shows. By which I mean: you don’t have to wonder at all,” tweeted writer Brian Dillon.
“Someone should fund and curate a show on the theme of ‘Dead Wood’, exclusively for artists who have been unable to access any or little government support during the pandemic, and then invite Grayson Perry to come and review it,” photographer Tom White said.
Artist and researcher Stephen Pritchard accused Perry of hypocrisy due to his various positions at arts institutions, commenting: “Unaffected by #COVID19, #graysonperry is a brightly coloured bit of art’s dead wood. Represented by Saatchi, he LOVES artwashing, inc. enabling #BP at the British Museum & Delancey as Chancellor of #UAL…”
With new lockdown restrictions meaning that museums, galleries, theatres and concert halls will once again be forced to close, the bleak outlook for culture venues will most likely worsen over the next month.
A number of institutions, including The Victoria & Albert Museum, the South London Gallery and National Museums Liverpool, are being forced to cut hundreds of jobs, while the National Trust is cutting 1,200 jobs.
The majority of job cuts are to front-of-house and education staff.
Perry was made Royal Academician in 2011. In 2018, he curated the annual open submission summer show.
Discussing his own work, Perry told Arts Society that he believed the pandemic was making him “fall back into making art in the way I did when I was young”.
“You make it for yourself, now, with no idea about where it might be exhibited… uncertainty has always been a creative kick for me,” he said.
In April, Perry was among a number of artists to sign an open letter to the government warning that the effects of the pandemic could turn the UK into a “cultural wasteland”.
More than 400 leading figures in the arts attributed their names to the letter by the Creative Industries Federation, who said that the arts and individuals in the business needed “urgent cash support” if they were to recover from the crisis.
The Independent has contacted Perry’s representative for comment.