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Sir Grayson Perry’s ‘Alien Baby’ acquired by Chelmsford Museum

Grayson Perry Alien Baby 6

Chelmsford Museum has acquired one of Sir Grayson Perry’s ‘Alien Baby’ sculptures. The gold gilded figure, a limited edition of just 12, is now on display in the museum’s ceramics gallery. It sits alongside another Sir Grayson acquisition – ‘Kate Board’.

Sir Grayson Perry is one of the UK’s most renowned artists, as well as a broadcaster and writer. He was born in Bicknacre in Chelmsford and now lives and works in London. The Turner Prize-winning artist is most known for his ceramics, which raise themes of national identity, gender, and social issues. He was recently bestowed a knighthood in His Majesty The King’s New Year Honours 2023 for services to the arts.

‘Alien Baby’ celebrates NHS role in rite of passage

Sir Grayson Perry created ‘Alien Baby’ while filming his BAFTA-nominated Channel 4 series ‘Rites of Passage’ in 2018. The four-part series explores the traditional rituals of birth, death, marriage and coming of age that govern our lives. In it, the artist asks the question “should we reinvent how we mark these occasions to fit with modern life?”

Grayson Perry Kate Board 2

For the third episode of the series, Sir Grayson visited Broomfield Hospital in his hometown of Chelmsford. There, he spoke with mothers on the neonatal ward who had given birth to premature babies, and their nurses. In the series, Sir Grayson describes the neonatal ward with its modern technology and lights as like “a kind of spaceship”.

Inspired by his experiences on the ward, the potter created 12 ceramics in the shape of infants. The pieces celebrate the NHS as a pillar of modern society; the “slow-motion modern miracle” of premature babies being nurtured back to health; and the humanity of the neonatal nurses.

The ceramic figures are just 27cm high, with a golden metallic glaze. Each of them is unique and stamped with the artist’s monogram and numbered on the underside.

Describing them as “talismans of life and love”, Sir Grayson gifted all 12 figures to the nurses and parents featured in the series in honour of the lives they have helped bring into the world.

The 10th figure was gifted to a Ward Administrator at the hospital who featured in the episode. It was purchased for Chelmsford Museum in April 2023 thanks to funding from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

Skateboard tribute to Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge also on display

Joining ‘Alien Baby’ in the ceramics gallery at Chelmsford Museum is another Sir Grayson Perry artwork – ‘Kate Board’.

The piece is a skateboard, in a limited edition of 999. It features a bright image of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge (now The Princess of Wales) in the style of a monumental church brass. Created in 2017, the piece was designed by Sir Grayson in collaboration with The Skateroom.

Established in 2014, The Skateroom works with major artists to create limited editions of art on skateboards. Significant parts of their proceeds help fund international skate and education nonprofits and projects.

Sir Grayson Perry said of the exclusive design, which featured in his 2017 exhibition at Serpentine Galleries ‘Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever’:

“She is a popular figure who does good work on a church brass. It might be the only context where we would get to stand on top of a member of the Royal Family.”

Sir Grayson Perry, artist, broadcaster and writer

Pieces enhance museum’s growing Sir Grayson Perry collection

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Sir Grayson’s artworks often feature or are inspired by his hometown of Chelmsford. They reflect both his memories of Chelmsford in past years, as well as the city today and the changes it has seen over time.

‘Alien Baby’ and ‘Kate Board’ add to Chelmsford Museum’s growing collection of works by the artist. They join the ‘Osprey Handbag’, one of ten designed in 2019 in collaboration with Osprey London. The piece features Sir Grayson’s famous teddy bear, Alan Measles, on the clasp. Other pieces by the artist currently displayed in the ceramics gallery include the famous ‘The Chelmsford Sissies’ pot and ‘England as seen from Lockdown in Islington’. ‘Untitled’, depicting Sir Grayson’s memories of childhood in Chelmsford, is also displayed in the gallery.

Chelmsford Museum Grayson Perry Collection 1

Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for a Connected Chelmsford, says it is fitting that ‘Alien Baby’ has been acquired for Chelmsford Museum in the 75th anniversary year of the NHS:

“In the 75th anniversary year of our beloved NHS, it is fitting and rather poignant that Chelmsford Museum should acquire Sir Grayson Perry’s ‘Alien Baby’.

"Having been inspired by the brilliant neonatal unit at our very own Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Sir Grayson’s piece celebrates the miracles that take place every day in our local hospital and in hospitals across the UK.

"Both the ‘Alien Baby’ and ‘Kate Board’ will richly enhance the museum’s collection of Sir Grayson Perry’s works, helping us to better understand the pioneering artist, and our local and national histories.”

Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for a Connected Chelmsford

Mark Curteis, Assistant Museums Manager – Curatorial and Learning, says Chelmsford Museum looks to acquire pieces by Sir Grayson Perry whenever possible:

“Sir Grayson Perry has produced many thought-provoking pieces with links to our wonderful city in which he grew up. These objects share important social stories of the city and Sir Grayson’s experiences of it.

"Chelmsford Museum is keen to collect and celebrate the work of Sir Grayson, particularly pieces with a local provenance. These acquisitions allow us to continue to share the history and identity of Chelmsford through the eyes of one of the UK’s most renowned artists and Chelmsfordians.”

Mark Curteis, Assistant Museums Manager – Curatorial and Learning, Chelmsford Museum

Chelmsford Museum is open every day, including bank holidays, from 10am to 5pm until 30 October and from 10am to 4pm from 31 October.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.