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Artist David Shrigley: Collects 6,000 Copies of The Da Vinci Code and Turns Them into 1984

Artist David Shrigley, a Turner Prize nominee, has gathered 6,000 copies of Dan Brown's bestseller "The Da Vinci Code" and reissued them as George Orwell's novel "1984."

He came up with this plan back in 2017 when he learned that the Oxfam store in Swansea was no longer accepting copies of the conspiracy thriller.

On Saturday, 1,250 copies of Shrigley's 1984 edition will go on sale at the same Oxfam store. Each one is unique, costs £495, and comes with a signed and numbered print.

Phil Broadhurst, the store manager, remembers what happened in 2017: "Around that time, there was one particular donation that we got more than we could ever use, and that was 'The Da Vinci Code,' because it was such a huge bestseller, and a few years down the line, everyone is clearing out their shelves."

What he did next set off a chain of events.

"We put a stack of 'The Da Vinci Codes' on the counter with a sign saying, 'Yes, you could give us another 'Da Vinci Code,' but we'd prefer your vinyl.'"

A poster in the Oxfam store in Swansea asks people not to donate copies of "The Da Vinci Code." IMAGE SOURCE,PENNSYLVANIA IN THE MIDDLE Caption to the image, The original sign, put up in the Oxfam store on Castle Street, Swansea, in 2017. The photograph went viral and caught Shrigley's attention, among other celebrities, including Sir Andy Murray (last month he told the Financial Times that he has an original Shrigley outside his bedroom), and David Bowie, according to his son Duncan Jones, also liked his work.

Standing in the Oxfam store in Swansea in front of a shelf filled with nothing but copy after copy of his 1984 edition, the artist explains, "I read the story in The Telegraph, and it just fired my imagination in the sense that I thought, 'I want them, I don't know why, but I want them. So I started collecting as many 'Da Vinci Codes' as I could."

Initially, he targeted charity shops. However, during his trips, often only one copy would be procured, so a different tactic was employed.

"We did some research and found out that there's a recycling point where all unwanted books go. There were almost unlimited amounts of them." He talks about Wrap Distribution in Oxfordshire - a 100,000 square foot facility for "The Da Vinci Codes," a veritable graveyard of bestsellers.

With their help, Shrigley acquired over 6,000 copies. What to do with them now?

"I recently re-read '1984' and realized that George Orwell died in 1950, so this was happening 70 years [in 2020] after his death. That means all his works are in the public domain, which means anyone can publish one of George Orwell's books."

Indeed, next month marks 70 years since the deaths of both Dylan Thomas and Eugene O'Neill, meaning that from the end of the year, any UK resident has the right to publish their own versions of "Under Milk Wood" or "The Iceman Cometh."

Shrigley realized he had an opportunity to turn his "Da Vinci Codes" into 1984. "This isn't literary criticism," he emphasizes. "It's more like the decision to use 'The Da Vinci Code' was made for me. It was made by Phil (who put up the sign) and the Oxfam shop. It was my decision to make '1984' because I still think it's a really important book for people to read."

"It's interesting to take one book and turn it into another specific book. It's a real collaboration. I feel like we've successfully co-authored Dan Brown."

Big Brother Is Watching You "1984" tells the story of Winston Smith, a man who questions the totalitarian society. It introduced phrases like "Big Brother" and "Room 101" and is considered one of the greatest novels of all time, making Time magazine's list of the 100 best novels.

Shrigley says he spent a "six-figure sum" publishing his 1984 edition. This justifies the price tag of £495 for each book, a price that opens eyes like a rat in Room 101, to use the language of 1984.

A portion of the profits will be donated to Oxfam, which will also receive income from the rental of the store and sales of specially designed large bags.

"Four hundred ninety-five pounds may seem like a crazy price," Shrigley admits. "But I've made a work of art, a signed print based on various themes of 1984. Maybe I'm willing to pay that price for my original illustration, although there might not be one for the book, so I kind of hedged my bets."

In fact, it's advertised as an "exclusive price" for the first 250 customers in Swansea. After that, the remaining 1,000 copies will be sold on his website at a "tier two price" of £795.

However, according to myartbroker.com, earlier this year, the "Shrigley Memorial" was sold for a minimum price of $165,100 (£135,557), setting a record for the artist and suggesting that the book, in the end, could be quite valuable.

David Shrigley, standing in front of a bookshelf with his 1984 edition. IMAGE SOURCE,PENNSYLVANIA IN THE MIDDLE Caption to the image, A documentary showing the entire process of creating "Criminal Code" will be shown for free this weekend at the Vulcan Theatre in Swansea. One thing that surprises me is that Shrigley actually hasn't read "The Da Vinci Code" cover to cover, saying he's "read most of it" and "dipped into it" while trying to find a quote from it that he could use for the foreword to his 1984 edition, but he gave up as he couldn't find any connection between the two books.

BBC asked Dan Brown how he reacted to the news that his 80-million-seller had been turned into 1984, but we received a message that he is "in transit," so we were unable to comment.

As for the Oxfam store, manager Phil says they are almost at the point where they no longer need to ask for donations of another book: "Right now it's the Richard Osman series, you know, The Thursday Murder Club.

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