I have always thought everything important is right in front of you.
Michael Craig-Martin depicts everyday items with a nuanced simplicity that exposes the tensions between objects and their representation. His work is distinguished by exceptional draftsmanship, vibrant color, and uninflected line; intensely visual, it is rooted in an exploration of the relationships between perception, language, and meaning.
Born in Dublin in 1941, Craig-Martin spent his formative years in the United States, where his family moved in 1946. During the 1960s, he earned a BA and MFA from Yale University School of Art and Architecture, studying alongside Jennifer Bartlett, Brice Marden, and Richard Serra; he also drew inspiration from the legacy of Josef Albers and the rise of Minimalism and Pop art. Craig-Martin returned to the United Kingdom in 1966, and in 1972 he participated in The New Art, a landmark exhibition of Conceptual art at the Hayward Gallery, London. The following year, he produced An Oak Tree (1973), which helped shape the landscape of British Conceptualism. An Oak Tree comprises a glass of water on a shelf and an accompanying text in which the artist explains that, outward appearances notwithstanding, he has changed the humble object into the titular plant. The fascination with semantics revealed by this transformative maneuver has remained a key aspect of Craig-Martin’s practice.
In the later 1970s and 1980s, Craig-Martin shifted his practice from readymade objects to their pictorial images, reimagining the quotidian from an unconventional perspective in wall drawings executed in a range of scales with black crepe paper drafting tape originally designed for electrical circuitry. In these consciously inexpressive, “styleless” images—produced by making precise depictions from life on sheets of clear acetate, then projecting and tracing the results onto gallery walls—he explores an ever-expanding litany of everyday objects, from safety pins to chairs, light bulbs to laptops. While applying effects of layering, intersection, and transparency, the artist renders his subjects, each alone, without shadows or signs of use or aging, as if according to Platonic ideals. These occupy, in his words, “a philosophically defined space somewhere between the particular and the general,” and ultimately function within a wholly original visual and emotional lexicon.
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.
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.
September 21–December 10, 2024
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Michael Craig-Martin is the largest exhibition of the artist’s work in the United Kingdom. The show includes highlights from throughout his career, including thought-provoking installations and works that pop with color. Since coming to prominence in the late 1960s, Craig-Martin has moved fluidly between sculpture, installation, painting, drawing, and print. Fusing elements of Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual art, his work transforms everyday objects with bold colors and simple uninflected lines.
Michael Craig-Martin, Self-Portrait (Aqua), 2007 © Michael Craig-Martin
RA Summer Exhibition 2023
June 13–August 20, 2023
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Held annually since 1769, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open-submission art show. It brings together art across all mediums—print, painting, film, photography, sculpture, architecture, and more—with some 1,600 works on display, many for the first time. Work by Georg Baselitz, Michael Craig-Martin, and Edmund de Waal is included.
Edmund de Waal, five stone wind (for John Cage), 2023 © Edmund de Waal
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