David Shrigley's Memorial (2016). Image courtesy of Ursula Liang's Instagram

Shrigley goes shopping in New York

The British artist's new Manhattan public artwork pairs a permanent medium with a throwaway message

Is the medium always the message, as the cultural theorist Marshall McLuhan put it?After all, sometimes it’s fun to see an artwork created in direct opposition to its medium.

Take, for example, David Shrigley’s new sculpture, unveiled in New York today. Memorial, at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park, is a towering granite slab, etched with a simple groceries list. Beginning with "crackers" and ending with "Nutella", the 25-item note is a monument to the Unmonumental – which appears to be the point.

“By engraving this ephemeral, throwaway list on a solid slab of granite, a material ubiquitous with the language of monuments, the artist humorously subverts both a daily routine and the role of the classic memorial,” explains the Public Art Fund.


David Shrigley's Memorial (2016). Image courtesy of the Public Art Fund's Instagram
David Shrigley's Memorial (2016). Image courtesy of the Public Art Fund's Instagram

Yet could there be a genuinely permanent and ennobling subtext, lying beneath this shopping list? Perhaps, according to the Public Art Fund.

“While Shrigley’s shopping list might appear to posture as a counter monument, through its celebration of a common activity, its anonymity, and absurdity, the sculpture becomes a memorial both to no-one and to everyone—perhaps standing as a simple but poignant ode to humanity.” 

Anyone looking for a little humanity in Manhattan, or just looking for an alternative to The Kitchen Shelf, can admire Shrigley’s work until 12 February 2017. For more permanent examples of site-specific in the Americas get Art & Place; for more lively art created outside the gallery system, get Wild Art; and for more on sculpture in the 21st century get Unmonumental.