David Shrigley (English b. 1968) is known for his distinctive yet simplified drawings of familiar, cheerful and delightful visuals of fruits, vegetables, and animals. Shrigley deliberately chooses recognisable, everyday visuals and pairs them with absurdity and ironic wordplay or puns meant to subvert expectations. In other works, Shrigley will depict an object with accompanying text that provides a straightforward and unambiguous description of the visual content. Often works such as these intentionally lack any discernible socio-political commentary or meaning, existing purely as an aesthetic expression and leaving the interpretation with the viewer.
Shrigley works in drawings, and has also explored other various mediums. He has several publications which contain his most successful drawings, including “What the Hell Are You Doing?: The Essential David Shrigley” and “Weak Messages Create Bad Situations: A Manifesto.” Shrigley’s work has achieved cult status, garring a devout following and significant acclaim among art and art enthusiasts with his distinctive style and commentary on contemporary life and culture.
In February of 2023, British artist David Shrigley achieved his auction record with Memorial, A Five-Metre monument reminiscent of a war memorial yet features the most standard engravings: a shopping list. When creating the work, Shrigley asked his friends to compile their shopping lists and edited down more ‘posh’ items so that the ending results were the most standard everyday items. Memorial was a public art commission demonstrating his ability to create site-specific and engaging works accessible to broad audiences and contribute to the surrounding community. The work sold for $165,100 (fees included).
Regardless of the implication, whether used as a diplomatic form of approval or assurance, “it's ok” is a universally accepted and understood phrase. Shrigley's, Untitled (It’s Ok) sold at Sotheby’s New York in March of 2016 for $44,100, landing its place as the second most expensive artwork by Shrigley ever sold. During an interview, Shrigley once said, “As an artist, you have to believe that your work makes the world a better place on some level,” which is the exact message this particular work sends. There is no complex message embedded in the work. It is non-exhaustive, artwork stripped down to its most transparent state, reminding viewers that: It’s Ok.
Tea, a traditional English favourite, is a social ritual often associated with light snacks, cakes, and scones. Therefore, it is unsurprising that this work was included in Sotheby’s Made In Britain sale, realising a price of £18,900 and standing as his third highest selling work. Unlike his usual screen prints, this work is a black-and-white photograph of a classic teapot. From an art historical perspective, this could be interpreted as a still life. The monochromatic print suggests the history of tea. Yet, Shrigley has transformed this into a contemporary work of art and commentary on a material item and embedded with humour and irony, as he has deliberately scribbled out the teapot with black marker and has written directly underneath 'NO TEA’. As much of his art, the interpretation is left to the viewer and boasts the question, could you live without tea?
Shark Says (2021) is one of David Shrigley's original animal prints and part of his FUCK works featured in his latest publication, 'Get Your Shit Together'. Produced in 2021, this work features a hungry black shark with his jaws revealed. In red marker Shrigley writes, “shark says fuck you all”. Shrigley's animal works are iconic as he plays on the viewer’s expectations and assumptions about the animal subverting the artwork from the shark’s point of view. This work demonstrates Shrigley's renowned international popularity as it made its auction debut at SBI Art Auction in Tokoyo, Japan in April 2023. Realising a price of JPY 3,105,000 (£18,078), Shark Says has subsequently become Shrigley's 4th top-selling work.
My Rampage is Over (2019) is another of Shrigley's original animal prints illustrating a giant blue elephant, deliberately crafted as a caricature intentionally created to express light-hearted humour. The gentle giant sits on his bottom, evidently resting from Shrigley's inscription, “I must rest now my rampage is over”. This particular work continues to circulate the secondary market as, like many of Shrigley's works, it deeply resonates with a vast audience due to its unique relatability and profound ability to evoke a shared emotional or humorous response.
Shrigley's genius and popularity lie in his ability to address dark, taboo topics in his creations while maintaining a profound respect for the seriousness and gravity of the underlying subject matter. The highest recorded sale for this piece is £17,500 at Christie’s London in March 2021.
Shrigley's unsettling Sorry! shows his sinister artistic oeuvre. Created in 2012 and sold at Rago Auctions on 15 June 2022, this work achieved $13,750 (£11,396). Bidding started at $5,000, and surpassed the high estimate of $9,000, a testament to Shrigley's recent popularity and success at auction.
Proving the current popularity of Shrigley's animal prints, Untitled (I Am Listening) features the cropped head of a blue rabbit emphasising its large ears, alluding to the literal title of the work “I am listening”. Staying true to his humorous and absurd inclusions, Shrigley includes at the bottom left of the print, “but you don't make any sense”, a subtle reference perhaps to our basic levels of comprehension. This work was included in Sotheby’s, Made In Britain sale and sold for £11,340 in March 2022.
Untitled (A Gap In The Clouds) reveals Shrigley's shrewd approach to language and imagery. This print is blacked out with dark blue, stormy clouds except for a hallow white opening displaying the title of the work. Shrigley juxtaposes literal imagery with metaphorical interpretation creating a dichotomy between representation and understanding. A Gap In The Clouds sold for $15,120 (£10,920) during Phillips Editions and Works on paper sale in New York in April 2021 and is Shrigley's eighth highest selling work.
To Hell With Zoos kicked off David Shrigley's Q1 2023 performance in January, realising a price of £10,710 at Phillips London. It is unsurprising that Shrigley’s animal prints garner the popularity they do when considering the much-needed attention that the impact of climate change and the importance of protecting our animals is currently receiving. To Hell With Zoos scorns any lack of immediacy, or avoidance of obvious climate issues placing agency with the penguins.
Self-deprecating and satirical, My Artwork Is Terrible is one of Shrigley's most absurd works. Set against a black backgrounds are the words, ”My artwork is terrible and I am a very bad person” - a direct commentary on the nonsensical, irrational, yet undeniably amusing qualities of his artwork. Before any critic can respond, Shrigley does it for them. Despite the troubling message contained in the work, it achieved £10,500 when it was sold at Tate Ward's Urban and Contemporary Art auction on 29 September 2021. The wry print achieved its £900 high estimate almost tenfold, and therefore speaks to the hold Shrigley's work has on the Contemporary Art market, even if Shrigley himself thinks it is terrible.