Justin Roiland, Rick and Morty co-creator, makes his debut in the fine art world

Sotheby’s has already received a bid of $42,000 (at time of publication) for the visually chaotic piece depicting a crowd of bug-eyed, cartoonish characters.

21 July 2021


The characters' eyes in Rick and Morty are one of the animation's definitive stylistic features – always oversized, white orbs with little wobbly squiggles for pupils. So it seems fitting that series co-creator Justin Roiland's first foray into the fine art world should also be all about the eyes. His acrylic-on-canvas painting titled mypeoplefriend is a chaotic, vibrant piece populated with dozens of cartoonish characters, mostly with familiar large boggling eyes, and giving off a specific sense dark humour in tune with that of Rick Sanchez. The signed artwork is being auctioned by Sotheby’s, no less, with an estimate to reach US$15,000 to US$20,000, and yet at the time of writing has already received a bid over double that, of $42,000.

Sotheby’s says his “all-over figurative style even recalls some of Jean Dubuffet’s boisterous compositions from the 1960s,” Roiland filling the canvas “to the brim as a horde of grotesque figures with bulging eyes and bared fangs press up against its surface”. A statement from the auction house says the painting’s title suggests that Roiland “compresses visual information, blurting it out in a single word,” and that his composition, in turn, “becomes a kind of dream world, where there is no respect for visual or spatial logic”. It also offers the analysis that his characters “seem menacing as they lunge out at us, but none of these childish monsters truly frightens us,” and that actually they appear melancholic, even crying. “There is something tragic about these creatures that try to frighten us but cannot.” Rick and Morty fans will attest that often the series itself plays with the tropes of cartoons and alien monster characters, which often aren’t as threatening or clever as they seem, and bases much of its humour on the flippant, everydayness of the characters’ encounters with absurdly horrific violence.

Earlier this year, 41-year-old Roiland sold a collection of drawings as NFTs, raising a whopping $1.65 million – making it one of the most lucrative crypto art sales in history. All proceeds were donated to support homeless encampments in Los Angeles.

The bidding for mypeoplefriend ends today, 21 July.


Justin Roiland: mypeoplefriend (Copyright © Justin Roiland, 2021; image courtesy of Sotheby's)

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Justin Roiland: mypeoplefriend (Copyright © Justin Roiland, 2021; image courtesy of Sotheby's)

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Jenny Brewer

Jenny oversees our editorial output across work, news and features. She was previously It’s Nice That's news editor. Get in touch with any big creative stories, tips, pitches, news and opinions, or questions about all things editorial.

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