Grayson Perry: I designed my new artwork while watching The X Factor

The Turner Prize-winning transvestite artist on sketching in front of the TV and hating fancy dress parties

Artist Grayson Perry revealed this evening at the Cheltenham Literature Festival that he had sketched ideas for his new artwork while having a beer in front of The X Factor.


Dressed in a purple pig-tail wig and a yellow and pink all-in-one, the Turner Prize winner also shared how he got his idea for his first architectural project, a fairytale-inspired holiday home in Essex which will be open to the public next year. 

Perry said he first thought of building The House Of Essex when playing make-believe drawing games with his daughter. “Then one day I thought, ‘Ooh I’d quite like to build that little church I’ve drawn’. I had a fantasy of making a secular church so I did a ceramic model of it and thought it would be fun to do one day when someone gave me the money. 

“And then one day someone said, ‘would you like to do it?’ So I went away with my sketch book and had a beer in front of The X Factor.

“I’m telling you this because it shows that art is serious play. For me, it was a quite freakish transformation from a child’s game to real building in the landscape.

“At first I got a bit carried away, as I always do. The idea probably got a bit kitsch so the architects talked me down a bit and I went away and did another sketch.  When you go and see the house, it looks like it’s been designed by Pixar. See it on a sunny day and it looks like it shouldn’t be there. It’s so weird in the landscape.

He added that the house seemed so surreal in Essex, he had started referring to it as “The Taj Mahal of Slough”.

Perry also said he was making a television programme about the house, which was designed as part of philosopher Alain De Botton’s Living Architecture project. 

Asked what kind of art he collects for his own home, Perry replied, “I’m not an exemplary art collector because the things I like are old and too expensive for me. I’ve got a very random collection of stuff. 

“I’ve got some prisoner art which I have because I judge the Koestler Prize every year (a scheme to celebrate the creative work of prison inmates) and some of that stuff is quite bonkers sometimes. I was given this fantastic embroidery of a motorway slip road in Germany. It sounds banal but it’s fantastic.”

And then Perry, his eyelids glinting with layers of silver eyeshadow, rounded off his Cheltenham lecture with the most shocking revelation of the evening. He hates fancy dress parties.

Responding to a question about his Halloween costume of choice, the artist said, “I have to make an admission here: I hate Halloween. I dislike intensely fancy dress parties because I want to be the only one in fancy dress. And most people don’t do it very well and I might get muddled up with one of them. They’re amateurs! 


“Actually, Halloween might be the only night of the year that I don’t get dressed up. I prefer getting dressed up to go into town for lunch.”