Artist Grayson Perry has addressed recent comments he made about the coronavirus pandemic which sparked controversy, clarifying that his statement was ‘taken out of context’.
During Friday evening’s episode of Have I Got News For You, guest host Romesh Ranganathan, team captains Paul Merton and Ian Hislop and guest panellists Grayson and Alice Levine discussed the news making headlines in the past week.
One of the stories they covered was news presenter Kay Burley’s agreement to be taken off air from Sky News for six months after admitting to breaching tier-two coronavirus rules during her 60th birthday celebrations.
After a short clip was shown of Kay interviewing a guest on Sky News about the restrictions before her birthday, Grayson commented: ‘If hypocrisy was a crime, we’d all be in prison.’
Romesh then segued into asking Grayson about comments he made during a November interview with The Arts Society magazine, in which he appeared to suggest that the coronavirus pandemic would clear ‘dead wood’ from the culture sector.
According to Grayson, 60, his words – which were heavily criticised by some artists – were ‘taken out of context’.
At first when Romesh brought up the subject, the presenter of Grayson’s Art Club said: ‘I know where this is going, I don’t want to talk about it,’ before adding: ‘My words were taken out of context is all I can say.’
When Romesh asked directly whether his words were taken out of context, Grayson responded: ‘Yes they were,’ before going into a swear-filled rant about a ‘PR’ who went ‘mad all over it’.
In The Arts Society magazine interview, Grayson is quoted as saying: ‘I think every part of life has probably got a bit of fat that needs trimming, a bit of dead wood. It’s awful that the culture sector has been decimated, but I think some things needed to go.
‘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.
‘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.’
Following the publication of the interview, Grayson responded on Twitter to the criticism he had received, stating: ‘My comments in an interview have been taken out of context.
‘At this terrible time for the arts I’d like to clarify that I was CERTAINLY not referring to the loss of people’s jobs and opportunities in the arts, or to art galleries having to close due to the virus.
In a second tweet, he continued: ‘I hope my hard work in support of the arts has shown how much I believe art is for us all and brings joy to amateurs and professionals alike.
‘In times of hardship we need the arts more than ever.’
Earlier this month, Grayson’s Art Club: The Exhibition aired on Channel 4.
The one-off special saw the artist visit Manchester Art Gallery, where works created during the six-episode Grayson’s Art Club series were put on display.
Have I Got News For You returns next Friday at 9pm on BBC One.