Can you believe British artist David Shrigley has never been to Miami Beach before? Still, he felt that after decades in the art world, he had a pretty good idea of ââwhat to expect from the city during America’s biggest art fair week.
âOnce everyone has told you about it, you develop a picture of what it looks like,â he told Artnet News. âAnd that’s pretty much as they described it. I have fun.”
Shrigley is normally rare on the art fair circuit, which he says is aimed more at collectors. âIt’s not really the place for you as an artist,â he explained. But this year, he made an exception as part of a collaboration with Ruinart.
The champagne house, longtime patron of Art Basel, hired him for its Carte Blanche artist series, first with a residency in Reims, France, in 2019, and now with a delayed presentation of ” Unconventional bubbles âat the fair’s Ruinart Lounge. (It also includes an augmented reality experience featuring a burrowing pink earthworm specially designed to interact with the lush green lawn outside the Bass Museum.)
Shrigley created 36 gouache drawings and paintings, three neon installations, two ceramic sculptures and a door for the project, all in his original style. He also took control overnight of the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, directly across from the convention center, with enlarged versions of his designs and huge recycled nylon pink inflatable worm sculptures crawling across the grounds.
We spoke with Shrigley about why champagne has proven to be fertile ground for artistic inspiration, why you should never turn down the chance to learn something new and the meaning of delicious rose worms.
When did you first go to Art Basel?
I think the first time was maybe in 1996 or 1997, in Switzerland. I was there for List, the young galleries sub-section, with Nicolai Wallner, with whom I still exhibit in Copenhagen. I seem to remember drawing pictures on the plane, or maybe my flight was canceled and I made pictures in the airport lounge. The drawings I made on the way were shown at the fair.
How does it feel to have traveled here for a big event after the lockdown restrictions?
I hesitate to say it, but I actually quite enjoyed the confinement. I am an introvert and my job is fairly easy to do in isolation. I don’t need other people to help me. I just stayed home doing the job. I didn’t really miss a lot of social events. I am married and have a dog, so I had company.
It was a reason to re-evaluate what you like, what you don’t like, what you miss, what you don’t miss. I don’t miss airports or travel that much. This is the trip abroad that I have taken since COVID. It’s pretty cool, even if it was quite difficult to get here and it will be quite difficult to come back. I live in UK in Devon, in the southwest near the sea.
A champagne artist residency seems a rather unusual opportunity. What made you say yes?
I love champagne and this was the opportunity to learn something about champagne production. If you have the opportunity to learn something, this is a good reason to do so. And it was an exercise where I did something that I wouldn’t normally do. It occurs to you after a while that you have to do things like this, otherwise you have nothing to do with art. If you do something really different in response to the project, that’s really valuable. I am not associated with a brand, I do not need the money and I can afford to buy my own champagne! I just did it to see what happens, and I learned a lot.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about champagne?
I love talking to the cellar master. You learn so much about wine and the nature of wine, and you get a glimpse into the work of someone else who is so different from yours. Success and failure are so unique in this activity.
Probably the biggest achievement is that champagne is quite a weird and curious luxury item in that it is made from plants and is sustainable in a way that other luxury projects are not. . The French are very proud of champagne. And it’s not considered a luxury item there. It is considered a requirement for everyone.
I love the pink worm. Can you tell us a bit about why you made these pieces of worms?
The AR worm arrived because of the lockdown, trying to do things digitally. And last year I had an exhibit at Copenhagen Contemporary, which is basically on a shitty island – land reclaimed from the sea that’s really toxic since there was heavy industry there. I made a room with giant inflatable worms that were constantly inflating and deflating. It was a response to the still life of the soil in this part of Copenhagen.
But originally it came from a painting I did for Ruinart, Worms work harder than us. It became a theme because the health of the soil is so important when making a natural product, but also for the world. We have to be careful with our surroundings, and I was trying to talk about that a bit.
See more works from the series below.
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