Tony Cragg

Tony Cragg, a pioneering figure in contemporary sculpture, was born in Liverpool in 1949. His early exposure to the world of engineering through his father’s work as an aerospace engineer influenced his meticulous approach to art.

Cragg’s artistic journey began somewhat unconventionally. After finishing high school, he worked as a lab technician for the British Rubber Producers Research Association. However, his passion for art led him to pursue formal education in the field. He studied at the Gloucestershire College of Arts and Technology in Cheltenham from 1968 to 1970 and continued his education at Wimbledon School of Art, London, where he focused on painting from 1970 to 1973. He later shifted his focus to sculpture, earning an MA from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1977.

In 1977, Cragg moved to Wuppertal, Germany, driven by both personal and professional reasons. His first wife was from Wuppertal, and the city offered affordable studio spaces and a vibrant art scene eager for new talents. The move proved pivotal in his career, allowing him to immerse himself in Germany’s rich sculptural tradition.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cragg gained recognition for his innovative use of found objects and discarded materials. His site-specific installations and assemblages, such as the iconic “Stack” (1975), showcased his ability to transform everyday items into compelling art. These works often involved arranging fragments by color and shape to create larger images, as seen in “Red Indian” (1982-83).

One of Cragg’s most notable early works is “Britain Seen from the North” (1981), a piece that reflects his critical view of Britain during the Thatcher era. The artwork, now part of the Tate collection, features a sideways outline of Great Britain with a figure scrutinizing it from the left, symbolizing Cragg’s outsider perspective.

In 1988, Cragg’s contributions to the art world were recognized with the prestigious Turner Prize. The same year, he represented Britain at the 42nd Venice Biennale and was appointed Professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, a position he held until 2001.

Throughout the 1990s, Cragg’s work evolved as he experimented with more permanent materials like wood, plaster, stone, fiberglass, stainless steel, cast iron, and bronze. He developed two significant series during this period, “Early Forms” and “Rational Beings.” The “Early Forms” series explored the transformation of familiar containers into new sculptural forms, while the “Rational Beings” featured organic shapes derived from gestural drawings.

Cragg has exhibited extensively worldwide, including major shows at the Tate Gallery Liverpool, MACBA in Barcelona, and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. He has received numerous accolades, such as the Shakespeare Prize (2001), the Piepenbrock Prize for Sculpture (2002), and the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002. He also served as a professor at the Universität der Künste in Berlin from 2001 to 2006 and resumed his professorship at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2006.

n recent years, Cragg has focused on creating sculptures suitable for outdoor exhibition and has returned to his initial love for drawing. Notable exhibitions include his solo show at the Musée du Louvre in Paris (2011) and displays at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh (2011) and CAFA Museum in Beijing (2012). His work “Accurate Figure” is currently on display at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas.

Following Brexit, Cragg obtained German citizenship, emphasizing his deep connection to his adopted country and his desire to avoid any future disadvantages.

Tony Cragg continues to be a vital force in contemporary art, constantly pushing the boundaries of sculpture and inspiring new generations of artists with his innovative approach and profound understanding of materials.

Fruit Juice Bottles, State 1, 1990

Fruit Juice Bottles, State 2, 1990

Vessels, 1988