It was during the height of lockdown, just as many of us were climbing the walls, that one of Britain's best-loved artists came to our rescue and brought Grayson's Art Club to our television screens.
Now Grayson Perry is launching an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery next month, featuring artworks from the show, both from public participants who had their entries selected and from artists such as Antony Gormley, Chantal Joffe, David Shrigley, The Singh Twins and Martin Parr, as well as those celeb guests who made us laugh out loud: Harry Hill, Jessica Hynes, Liza Tarbuck, Noel Fielding, Jim Moir and Vic Reeves, and Jenny Eclair.
Supported by Channel 4 and Swan Films, the exhibition will also feature the works Grayson and Phillipa Perry produced during lockdown, including the nation's guardian spirit, Alan Measles.
Opening from 25 November 2020 until 18 April 2021, the exhibition will track the journey the series took as it unleashed the nation's collective creativity under the constraints of lockdown. Every week, Grayson hosted the show from his own studio in London, taking the country with him as he created new artworks in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Each week, a different theme – portraits, animals, fantasy, view from my window, home, national spirit – was explored by Grayson, and he tasked the public, celeb guests and artist friends to develop their own response. Across the run, nearly 10,000 pieces of art – from paintings to sculptures, photography to mixed media – were entered by the public.
Of the Manchester Art Gallery exhibition, Grayson said: "It will be in a people's palace of culture. All the artists who appeared on our TV series put in a lot of skill, thought and feeling into their works and I am so proud that they will get the opportunity to see their art hanging in this grand, nearly 200-year-old institution.
"From its inception, Art Club was about the benefits of making art that is open to all. In the true spirit of the series, we will be exhibiting the works grouped not by a hierarchy of fame or value but grouped in themes. Each artwork will hang amongst others that talk of the shared experiences we have lived through during this extraordinary time of the Covis-19 crisis. This show is a crystallisation of the feelings and obsessions of artists from all over the country, whether it is their first painting since primary school or they are world-famous."
"This will be a show about the joy and solace of making art. It will also be a still moment to reflect on a situation that has affected everyone on the planet," Grayson adds.
A special episode of Art Club will air on Channel 4 this winter, giving us a sneak peek behind the scenes of the curation and development of the Art Club exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery.