The Hereford Mappa Mundi invites a response from everyone who views it, and each person brings to it their own experiences, memories, associations and interpretations.

The current special exhibition within the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library Exhibition is an exhibition of contemporary art, involving five established artists and 14 degree students from Hereford College of Arts, all of whom have responded to Mappa Mundi in wonderfully varied and imaginative ways. The exhibition brings their work together to inspire visitors to consider the map’s meaning and artistry more deeply.

The best known artist is Grayson Perry, who has become an establishment figure (RA 2012, CBE 2013, BBC Reith Lecturer 2013, Trustee of the British Museum, 2015) despite the fact that his work is often deeply subversive, parodying modern society and its mores with witty cynicism, heavy with historical references. Several of Perry’s works make reference to the world of the medieval mappa mundi, the most significant of them being his huge autobiographical etching, Map of Nowhere (2008), which is displayed opposite Mappa Mundi itself. It is a self-portrait which encompasses and categorises all the things that modern life throws at a person, in a similar way to how Mappa Mundi presents a huge variety of information drawn from much older sources. Map of Nowhere is indebted both to the Hereford Mappa Mundi (see the podcast from BBC4’s The Beauty of Maps) and the Ebstorf World Map.

Commenting on the ‘Mapping Inspirations’ exhibition and specifically on Grayson Perry's Map of Nowhere, The Revd Canon Chris Pullin, Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral, said: People from all over the world, of many faiths and of none, respond to the Mappa in all sorts of ways, giving us plenty to think about as we see this unique document through the eyes of others.

‘Although the Mappa is a medieval Christian artefact, it does contain many images that come from pagan Classical culture and from further afield, so has always presented a wide and generous view of the world and of ideas about it. Grayson Perry's response to the Mappa is his own personal take on things. Displaying his Map of Nowhere is not an endorsement of ideas he seems to express within it, but an opportunity for all of us to see what a significant contemporary artist has produced as his own ‘Mappa Mundi’. We are free to agree or to disagree with the take on life it expresses, but that's true of the Mappa Mundi too. We have had many appreciative comments about the exhibition, and some people have made a special effort to visit in order to see the works on display.’

Dr Rosemary Firman, the cathedral librarian, also commented: ‘the exhibition includes works by five established artists – Genevieve Belgard, Charlie Calder-Potts, Ewan David Eason, Andrea McLean and Grayson Perry – and 14 degree students from Hereford College of Arts, who have responded to Mappa Mundi in wonderfully varied and imaginative ways. Most of the works have been produced especially for this exhibition and they invite the visitor to consider the map’s meaning and artistry more deeply.’

For more information about the exhibition, please click here.