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); and NOW, Shanghai Himalayas Museum (2015, traveled to Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan, China). 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.
Extended through August 23, 2019
May 31–August 23, 2019
Britannia Street, London
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.
Frieze Masters 2021
October 13–17, 2021, booth C02
Regent’s Park, London
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Frieze Masters 2021 with Material Process. Conceived, carved, cast, or constructed—sculpture remained a continuously strong tradition throughout the twentieth century in Britain. Artists such as Henry Moore, Anthony Caro, Michael Craig-Martin, Rachel Whiteread, Damien Hirst, and Douglas Gordon have extended this lineage, often focusing on human figures or body parts, transforming materials and techniques, including language, into a widely diverse practice that is internationally recognized.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Plaster Torso), 1993 © Rachel Whiteread. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates
Michael Craig-Martin’s Fountain Pen (2019) has been installed outside the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, England. The sculpture is a vivid magenta in color and balances strikingly on the single point of the pen’s nib. Commissioned by the Blavatnik School of Government to celebrate the university’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, the work alludes to the research and learning carried out in Oxford, as well as to the signing of important documents.
Michael Craig-Martin with his sculpture Fountain Pen (2019), Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, England. Artwork © Michael Craig-Martin. Photo: Matt Alexander/PA Wire
June 14–August 31, 2021
Taikoo Park, Hong Kong
Michael Craig-Martin’s powder-coated steel sculptures depicting everyday objects are on display at Taikoo Park, Hong Kong. The forms have an instant sensory, intellectual, and emotional impact, evoking the tangible experiences of daily life while speaking to the symbolic potency the represented objects hold. This installation, organized by Swire Properties, celebrates the company’s commitment to art and culture.
Michael Craig-Martin’s installation at Taikoo Park, Hong Kong, 2021. Artwork © Michael Craig-Martin. Photo: courtesy Taikoo Place and Swire Properties
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
RA Summer Exhibition 2019
June 10–August 12, 2019
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Running annually since 1769, the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is the world’s largest open-submission art show. It brings together art in all mediums—prints, paintings, film, photography, sculpture, architectural works and more—with some 1,200 works on display, many of them for the first time. Work by Michael Craig-Martin, Thomas Houseago, and Anselm Kiefer is included.
Installation view, RA Summer Exhibition 2019, Royal Academy of Arts, London, June 10–August 12, 2019. Artwork © Thomas Houseago