A pair of large-scale and striking tapestries by Grayson Perry, winner of the Turner Prize in 2003, will go on show at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead this summer.

The tapestries tell the story of Julie Cope, a fictitious Essex ‘everywoman’, who was inspired by the people Perry grew up among.

Julie Milne, Chief Curator of the Shipley Art Gallery, said: “These tapestries have recently been added to the Crafts Council’s national collection of contemporary craft and they’re the only pair in a public collection. We’re incredibly lucky to be able to show them here in Gateshead as part of their first ever national tour.”

The tapestries were made for A House for Essex, a building designed by Grayson Perry and FAT Architecture, and well known through the Channel 4 programme Grayson Perry’s Dream House.

They tell Julie’s story through Perry’s recognisably vibrant and detail-orientated style. These artworks represent, in Perry’s words, ‘the trials, tribulations, celebrations and mistakes of an average life’.

Historically, large-scale tapestry provided insulation for grand domestic interiors; Perry has juxtaposed its associations of status, wealth and heritage with the current concerns of class, social aspiration and taste. To write Julie’s biography, he looked to the English ballad and folktale tradition, narrating a life that conveys the beauty, vibrancy and contradictions of the ordinary individual.

Alongside the tapestries will be a visualisation and specially commissioned audio recording of the Ballad of Julie Cope. The 3,000 word narrative, written and read by Perry himself, elaborates on the story of Julie’s life and is translatable to audiences across the country. As the only chance to read and hear the ballad outside of the House for Essex, audiences will be able to explore ideas of regional identity, the effect of social history on the individual, and class mobility, through her journey.

Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: the story of a life by Grayson Perry is a Crafts Council touring exhibition. It will be on show at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead from Saturday 5 May to Saturday 28 July 2018. Admission is free. www.shipleyartgallery.org.uk.

The Crafts Council’s purchase of this significant acquisition was supported by Art Fund (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation), Maylis and James Grand, Victoria Miro and other private donors.