Artist Grayson Perry looking at the camera behind a boat with hanging glass figures and bottles

Past exhibition

27 August 2020 – 10 January 2021

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Grayson Perry's playful memorial to the unnamed craftsmen and women who made some of the wonders of history.

Created and displayed as part of an exhibition at the British Museum in 2011 and 2020, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman is a sculpture of an iron ship, sailing into the afterlife. The ship is hung with hand-made replicas of British Museum objects, representing crafts made through history – by forgotten men and women – which have survived into the present day.

... a large proportion of the British Museum collection has come from tombs. You could say the British Museum is a kind of giant tomb itself. The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman could be another name for the British Museum…

– Grayson Perry CBE

In 2020, the installation was on display in Room 17 alongside the Nereid monument – a tomb built in around 380 BC for Erbinna, ruler of Lycia (now south-western Turkey). The tomb was built to celebrate his life and to create a monument for the afterlife. Stylistic details reveal that the sculptures were carved by different artists, but their names are now also lost to history.

Museum Trustee Grayson Perry is an internationally acclaimed artist, writer and presenter. He works with media including ceramics, cast iron, bronze, printmaking and tapestry, often using digital technology to make images. He is the winner of the 2003 Turner prize and 2020 Erasmus Prize, was elected a Royal Academician in 2012, and awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in June 2013.

Exhibition supporters

Supported by

Christian and Florence Levett

Christian and his wife Florence are longstanding and generous supporters of many aspects of the British Museum's work, most recently through the loan of an Odysseus head, and membership of the Curators' Circle, for the exhibition Troy: myth and reality.

Christian is the founder of the award-winning Mougins Museum of Classical Art (MACM) in 2011. MACM holds 1,000 works over four floors and was founded with the idea of comparing and contrasting a comprehensive collection of classical antiquities and contemporary art, revealing an interplay between the two.