Everyone Loves | David Shrigley
Editorial / Artists

Everyone Loves | David Shrigley

21 Feb 2022

It’s been a good decade for David Shrigley, who has built on 2013’s Hayward Gallery retrospective and Turner Prize nomination to become one of the most popular artists of his generation. Combining off-beat humour and friendly visuals in his paintings, prints and sculptures, Shrigley has a rare ability to make the viewer smile – a quality that’s even more desirable in our Covid-tainted times. It’s no wonder then, that his prints performed outstandingly in January’s Evening & Day Editions auctions at Phillips, smashing their high estimates by up to 400 per cent.

‘I always try and make sure everything’s not shit. I think you know if it’s shit and if it’s shit then it’s really got to go in the bin.’

David Shrigley

The record-breaking results followed hot on the heels of Shrigley’s latest exhibition at London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery. Entitled Mayfair Tennis Ball Exchange, the compelling installation featured row upon row of brand new tennis balls, which visitors were encouraged to swap for their old ones. An intriguing commentary on decay and the passage of time, it reminded viewers that the artist’s oeuvre continues to evolve.

David Shrigley, Mayfair Tennis Ball Exchange (Installation View)

David Shrigley, Mayfair Tennis Ball Exchange (Installation View)

Stephen Friedman

Last year’s Art Basel Miami Beach provided another example of Shrigley’s constant innovation: In conjunction with the Champagne-brand Ruinart, he created AR worm sculptures which wriggled through the streets of the city with the help of the Acute Art app (his work for the fair also included a grape-treading installation and four gigantic, blow-up worms). Shrigley’s willingness to embrace digital art means that even a foray into NFTs isn’t completely out of the question in the future.

"The jury’s still out on NFTs, and I think you have to make one to realise whether they’re pointless or not," he said in a recent interview with The Telegraph (which, ironically, followed the sale of fake NFTs of his work).

David Shrigley x Ruinart ’Unconventional Bubbles’ exhibition at Frieze London 2021

David Shrigley x Ruinart ’Unconventional Bubbles’ exhibition at Frieze London 2021

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"David Shrigley’s medium is a sort of very recognizable, universal silliness: the kind of humor that some people would say is British, but somehow seems pretty universal, and that people enjoy everywhere."

Daniel Birnbaum, Founder of Acute Art

The artist’s work already exists outside the gallery space, of course. By selling products including clothing, homeware and stickers, Shrigley has significantly widened his appeal and raised awareness of his brand. On his Shrig Shop website (a collaboration with long-term friend and gallerist Nicolai Wallner), comparisons are drawn with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring – the first artists to bring their work to a larger audience through its commercialisation and thereby bridge the gap between high and low art.

Untitled (News: Nobody Likes You) by David Shrigley, 2006.

Untitled (News: Nobody Likes You) by David Shrigley, 2006.

Shrigley’s work is always popular with our buyers, too. His prints look fantastic on the wall, provide a talking point for guests and – if looked after carefully – will prove wise investments for the future. Acute Art’s founder, Daniel Birnbaum explained Shrigley’s mass appeal perfectly in a piece for the New York Times last year. "David Shrigley’s medium is a sort of very recognisable, universal silliness: the kind of humour that some people would say is British, but somehow seems pretty universal, and that people enjoy everywhere," he said. "It’s a silliness that talks to us all, because we are all silly."

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