Thumbs up Australian acquisition for David Shrigley

Iconic sculpture by David Shrigley finds permanent home in Melbourne.
Man in blue t-shirt standing next to outdoor bronze sculpture of a huge hand with an elongated thumb sticking up in the air. David Shrigley, NGV

NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) International has announced this week (18 March) that it has acquired British artist, David Shrigley’s larger-than-life bronze Really Good, 2016, which has been placed at the entrance to the Gallery since December 2023 for the exhibition, NGV Triennial.

Shrigley originally conceived of, and presented the sculpture, for London’s ongoing Fourth Plinth project in Trafalgar Square.

The sculpture takes the form of a seven-metre high “thumbs up” sign, but is slightly “off” – exaggerated and elongated, and couched in ambiguity and irony. It could equally pass as a “raised finger”. The sculpture was made in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, adding a level of irony to the work. It is this dark humour interweaving with the everyday that has made his works so celebrated globally.

Shrigley said of the acquisition: ‘I am delighted that Really Good has found a permanent home in Australia. I have great affection for both the NGV and the city of Melbourne and my time visiting and exhibiting there has been very rewarding. Artworks change depending on the context in which they are shown and new meaning is created as the artwork travels. It has been exciting to see how people have responded to the work at the NGV Triennial.’

Read: 10 British artists currently showing in Australia

The Gallery has had a long relationship with Shrigley. He was the subject of David Shrigley: Life and Life Drawing at the NGV in 2014-15. While best known for his distinctive drawing style, Shrigley’s practice spans a range of media including sculpture, installation, animation, painting, photography and music.

Tony Ellwood AM, Director, NGV, added: ‘David Shrigley captures our life, times and culture with an irreverent and universal visual language that resonates around the world. His monumental bronze sculpture Really Good exemplifies his creative worldview – and will no doubt become one of the icons of the NGV Collection.’

Thumbs up sculpture outside gallery.
Installation view of David Shrigley’s work ‘Really Good’ on display in NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 to 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

Read: Exhibition review: NGV Triennial 2023

The major acquisition has been made possible by the Felton Bequest, which was established in 1904 and was the greatest charitable gift in Australia at the time.

David Shrigley OBE was born in Macclesfield, England, in 1968, and lives and works in Brighton, UK. He graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 1991, and was a finalist in the 2013 Turner Prize following his critically acclaimed retrospective Brain Activity at the Hayward Gallery, London, 2012. In 2020, Shrigley was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in HM Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year’s Honours list.

NGV Triennial is on display until 7 April 2024 at NGV International, St Kilda Road, Melbourne. Free entry. Shrigley’s sculpture will remain on view in the Gallery’s forecourt.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina