Article 2 of the Constitution of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation reads as follows:
‘Within the context of the cultural traditions of Europe in general and the ideas of Erasmus in particular, the aim of the Foundation is to enhance the position of the humanities, the social sciences and the arts. The emphasis lies on tolerance, cultural diversity and non-dogmatic, critical thinking. The Foundation tries to achieve this aim by awarding prizes and by other means. A financial prize is awarded under the name of “Erasmus Prize”.’
In accordance with this article, the Board of the Foundation has decided to award the Erasmus Prize 2021 to the British artist Grayson Perry. He receives this prize on the following grounds:
- Grayson Perry has a visual language all of his own and has developed a nonconformist way of using media in a world where visual media are ubiquitous.
- He chooses techniques that the art establishment had for a long time pushed down the hierarchy, such as ceramics and textile, and he combines them with contemporary technologies. His use of traditional crafts is a way to escape the fleeting nature of digital imagery: the digital world with its endless links and rapid movements comes to a halt in a rug or a vase.
- As an artist and public figure, he champions democratic, inclusive art. Perry breaks through barriers of class, background and status in order to speak to people directly about creativity and the role of art in life and society.
- In his playful treatment of classical role patterns, the artist not only appeals for tolerance but also enforces it. In his art, and also in his texts and public appearances, he reflects critically yet light-heartedly on the social roles of men and women.
- Social and political themes are explicitly present in the work of Grayson Perry. Thanks to his open, non-judgemental attitude, he succeeds in uniting opposites, without that prejudicing the complexity of his work. All the values that the Foundation upholds surface in his art practice.