A principal figure of British conceptual art, Michael Craig-Martin probes the relationship between objects and images, harnessing the human capacity to imagine absent forms through symbols and pictures. The perceptual tension between object, representation, and language has been his central concern over the past four decades. In his early work Craig-Martin often incorporated readymades into sculpture and made knowing reference to American Minimalism. His elegant restraint and conceptual clarity is exemplified by An Oak Tree (1973), comprising a glass of water on a shelf and a text written by him asserting that the glass of water is, in fact, an oak tree. This interest in semantics, the play between rhetoric and object, continues to be a core theme in his work. In the 1990s Craig-Martin made a decisive shift to painting and developed his hallmark style of precise, bold outlines demarcating flat planes of intensely vibrant colors. Through exacting draftsmanship, he uses composition to explore spatial relationships by juxtaposing and layering color.
Craig-Martin was born in 1941 in Dublin. He attended Fordham University, New York, from 1959 to 1961, then Yale University, where he received a BA in 1963 and an MFA in 1966. In the mid-1960s he returned to Europe, becoming one of the key figures in the first generation of British conceptual artists. Craig-Martin taught at Goldsmiths College School of Art, London, from 1974 to 1988 and from 1994 to 2000. During this time he became a powerful influence on a generation of his students who would become known as the Young British Artists, including Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, and Damien Hirst, among others. Craig-Martin’s work has been featured in solo museum exhibitions worldwide, including Always Now, Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (1998); Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Spain (2000); Living, Museu de Arte Moderna–Colecção Berardo, Sintra, Portugal (2001); Arp Museum, Remagen, Germany (2005); Le Magasin–Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France (2006); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2006–07); Signs of Life, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2006); New Art Centre, Roche Court, England (2006, 2011); Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas (2010, 2015); Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, England (2012); Less Is Still More, Museum Haus Esters, Krefeld, Germany (2013); Chatsworth House, England (2014); NOW, Shanghai Himalayas Museum (2015, traveled to Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan, China); and Here and Now, Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center (2022). Craig-Martin’s work is featured in various public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Craig-Martin was an artist trustee of Tate from 1989 to 1999, and was elected to the Royal Academy in 2006. In 2016 he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to art.
Craig-Martin lives and works in London.
Photo: Caroline True
Extended through August 23, 2019
May 31–August 23, 2019
Britannia Street, London
Michael Craig-Martin and Jan Dalley
Michael Craig-Martin and Jan Dalley sat down together in London as part of this year’s FT Weekend Festival. Join the two for a conversation about the artist’s long career in art, teaching, and writing, as well as his latest projects. A principal figure of British Conceptual art, Craig-Martin probes the relationship between objects and images, harnessing the human capacity to imagine absent forms through symbols and pictures.
Behind the Art
Michael Craig-Martin: Ordinariness
Join Michael Craig-Martin at his London studio as he speaks about his working methods, his interest in the ordinary, and his abiding concern for the sculptural.
The Parameters of Perception
Michael Craig-Martin and Jeffrey Sturges in conversation on Tom Wessselmann’s Standing Still Lifes.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
ICRA Annual Conference 2022
Legacy: The Artist’s View
Thursday, December 1, 2022, 9:30am
Cromwell Place, London
The International Catalogue Raisonné Association conference will give artists, their families, and catalogue raisonné authors space to articulate their thoughts on the theme of legacy. Engaging with the question of posterity, the conference asks how a family’s closeness to the artist can be both a blessing and a challenge, and thinks about ways in which later generations as well as nonfamily members can address issues surrounding an artist’s continued relevance. Edmund de Waal will be the keynote speaker and Michael Craig-Martin and Rachel Whiteread will contribute to the conference as well. The in-person and online event will include a question-and-answer session.
Photo: courtesy International Catalogue Raisonné Association
FT Weekend Festival 2022
Michael Craig-Martin and Jan Dalley
Saturday, September 3, 2022, 11–11:45am
Kenwood House, London
As part of this year’s FT Weekend Festival in London, Michael Craig-Martin will be in conversation with Financial Times arts editor Jan Dalley on the Arts Stage to discuss his long career in art, teaching, and writing, as well as his latest projects. A principal figure of British conceptual art, Craig-Martin probes the relationship between objects and images, harnessing the human capacity to imagine absent forms through symbols and pictures.
Gagosian is partnering with the Financial Times to host the Arts Stage at the one-day event where leading experts discuss the arts, music, literature, food, business, and technology. Recent Gagosian Quarterly films will be screened between sessions on the stage throughout the day and Gagosian publications will also be presented.
Left: Michael Craig-Martin. Photo: Caroline True. Right: Jan Dalley
Zona Maco 2022
February 9–13, 2022, booth B115
Centro Citibanamex, Mexico City
Gagosian is pleased to announce its return to Zona Maco México Arte Contemporáneo for the first time since 2018; significantly, this is also the gallery’s first in-person art fair of 2022. Gagosian is presenting a specially curated selection of dynamic paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by iconic figures long associated with the gallery, juxtaposed with works by key contemporary artists. Many of the featured artists are being represented at Zona Maco for the first time.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (November), 2020 (detail) © Rachel Whiteread. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
Here and Now
April 8–August 28, 2022
Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center
Here and Now is one of the largest retrospectives to date of work by Michael Craig-Martin. The exhibition features more than one hundred paintings, drawings, prints, and installations from the 1970s to present day, including works made specially for this presentation.
Installation view, Michael Craig-Martin: Here and Now, Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center, April 8–August 28, 2022. Artwork © Michael Craig-Martin
May 6–November 14, 2021
Boghossian Foundation, Brussels
From early European and Middle Eastern artifacts to modern and contemporary works, icons have inspired many believers, as well as artists, throughout the ages. This exhibition explores how spiritual dimensions have been incorporated into artworks from antiquity to the present day. Work by Michael Craig-Martin, Ellen Gallagher, Douglas Gordon, Duane Hanson, Titus Kaphar, and Andy Warhol is included.
Ellen Gallagher, Untitled, 2000 © Ellen Gallagher
The Shape of Things
Michael Craig-Martin at Discovery Green
August 1–November 3, 2019
Discovery Green, Houston
The Shape of Things comprises a series of six monumental steel sculptures by Michael Craig-Martin offering a playful perspective of everyday objects, which challenge our perception of space, appearing like line drawings in the air.
Installation view, The Shape of Things: Michael Craig-Martin at Discovery Green, Discovery Green, Houston, August 1–November 3, 2019. Artwork © Michael Craig-Martin
An exhibition dedicated to the memory of Michael Stanley
June 12–September 8, 2019
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, England
This exhibition, dedicated to the memory of former Ikon director Michael Stanley, is structured loosely on Rex Warner’s 1941 wartime novel The Aerodrome, a book that made a great impression on Stanley. The show features many of the artists he worked with, including Michael Craig-Martin, Thomas Houseago, and Jenny Saville.
Jenny Saville, Portrait of Lola, 2019 © Jenny Saville