An immense granite monument to the mundane was erected in Central Park last week by the Public Art Fund. The 17-foot-tall stone slab is inscribed with a message that, by virtue of the medium, could outlast the civilization around it. For his new sculpture, MEMORIAL, British artist and author David Shrigley has carefully chosen words like "sausages," "Nutella," and "tampons"—like a deadpan "Ozymandias," it's possible the only record left of a post-apocalyptic New York City will be a grocery list.
But how do you choose what will go on a grocery list intended for posterity? Shrigley took enlisted help when deciding what future generations will imagine occupied our shopping carts. "It’s a composite of lists from several friends in NYC," he explains to The Creators Project. "Amanda at my gallery commented that it was a bit of a bourgeois shopping list so we swapped out a few of the fancy stuff for more mainstream fare. Rice wine vinegar for ketchup, for example."
Shrigley, a renowned UK artist perhaps best known to the public for his cartoons in The Guardian, takes every opportunity to inject that kind of humor into the self-serious art world. In sculpture it can be a distorted thumbs up, unreliably assuring viewers that everything will be OK, a pair of disembodied pitch-black testicles, or a gravestone in the same vein as MEMORIAL: inscribed with a grocery list. The Public Art Fund has enlisted industry titans like Sol LeWitt, Keith Haring, and Tony Oursler to create large-scale sculptures that further their iconic imagery, but Shrigley zigs where everyone else zags. MEMORIAL diverges from his scrawled cartoon style to immortalize the most mundane, transient item possible in everlasting, authoritarian, all-caps. "Maybe it’s a funny artwork," he quips. "Funny is good, right?"
MEMORIAL will be on display at Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park through February 12, 2017. See more of David Shrigley's work on his website.