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date: 10 April 2020

Cragg, Tony (Anthony)free

British, 20th – 21st century, male.

Active in Germany.

Born 1949, in Liverpool.

Assemblage artist, installation artist.

New British Sculpture.

Tony Cragg originally studied sciences and in 1968 took a job at a biochemical laboratory. He later studied at Gloucester College of Art and Design in Cheltenham, at Wimbledon School of Art, and from 1973 at the Royal College of Art in London. He has lived and worked in Wuppertal since 1977 and teaches at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1988 and was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1994.

From the start of his career, Cragg worked with industrial waste materials, often consumer goods produced in large quantities, rapidly consumed and then disposed of. The fact that he often worked with plastic initially set him apart from earlier artists who had also worked with waste materials. In the early 1970s, he worked with objects discarded at sea and washed up on the beach. From 1978 to 1982, he produced major compositions which he arranged on floors and walls; these pieces derived their expressive force either from their unity of colour or the nature of the materials. A discarded item becomes an art object through a process of thought: scraps are arranged in a certain order to depict the object from which they come, the purpose for which they exist – a vacuum cleaner, for example. Cragg later abandoned this approach and began producing enlarged objects such as laboratory equipment, as in Mortar and Pestle of 1986 and Instinctive Reactions of 1987. Simple household bottles are transformed into cast iron monuments. They take on the neutrality of furniture.

In about 1988, he began using more traditional ‘noble’ materials such as bronze, wood, and plaster, working with these using traditional techniques such as casting and burnishing. In a spirit of conciliation with his earlier work, he places pieces of polished wood alongside unworked scraps of wood that are cracked or sanded down. These polymorphous objects of bulbous form are placed side by side with hollow shells, allowing the layering process of their manufacture to be seen. This makes for an implicit reference to their origin and purpose. For Cragg, sculpture is a way of exploring contemporary urban life.

Group Exhibitions

1979, Europa 79, Stuttgart, Germany

1980, New Pictures (Nuova Immagine), Milan, Italy

1980, A Perspective, Basel, Switzerland

1982, 1987, Documenta, Kassel, Germany

1983, São Paulo Biennale, Brazil

1991, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, PA

2003, The State of Things (L’État des Choses), an exploration of the status of everyday objects in contemporary art, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France; Sense of Place (Esprit des Lieux), on contemporary art and its exhibition space, at the Palais des Papes, Avignon, France (both part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the FRAC, the Regional Collection of Contemporary Art)

2006, Glass: Material Matters, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA (an exhibition on the formal and technical possibilities of glass in contemporary art)

2006, The 80s: A Topology (Anos 80: Uma Topologia), Museu Serralves, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Oporto, Portugal (an exhibition exploring the sceptical, contradictory, and uncertain artistic climate of the 1980s)

2008, Art Ambition (Ambition d’Art), Institut d’Art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, Lyon, France (an exhibition organised to celebrate the institute’s 30th anniversary)

Solo Exhibitions

1984, Louisiana Museum for Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

1984, Kölner Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany

1985, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich, Germany

1985, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium

1985, ARC Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France

1986, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, NY

1986, Lisson Gallery, London, UK

1987, Hayward Gallery, London, UK

1988, Venice Biennale (representing Britain), Italy

1989, Tate Gallery, London, UK

1989, Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands

1990, Tony Cragg, Sculpture 1975–1990, Newport Harbor Art Museum, CA (travelling exhibition)

1994, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France

1995, Musée Nationale d’Art Moderne, Paris, France

1997, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (travelling exhibition)

1997, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, UK

1998, Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris, France

1999, Musée Départemental de Rochechouart Hors-les-Murs, St-Yrieix-la-Perche, France

2003, Tony Cragg: Signs of Life, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy

2003, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France (12 major outdoor sculptures in the square outside the BN, an exhibition arranged by the Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris)

2007, Tony Cragg – The Potential of Things, Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Atlanta (High MA): New Figuration (1985, plastic objects)

Brussels (Mus. Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique): Fragments (1987, cast steel)

Chicago (MCA): Red Bottle (1982, plastic objects)

Dijon (FRAC Bourgogne): Palette (1985, plastic, relief); Black and White Stack (1980, mixed media, sculpture)

Dusseldorf (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen): Echo (1984, mixed media)

Edinburgh (National Gal. of Modern Art): Kahzernarbeit (1985, mixed media); Kolbenneblok (1989, bronze)

Épinal (Mus. Départemental d’Art Ancien et Contemporain): S. (1984)

Fort Worth (MAM): Ball Contact (1990, steel, 8 pieces)

Houston (MFA): New Forms (1991–1992, bronze)

Lisbon (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian): Laboratory Still Life no. 3 (1988, framed aquatint and spit bite on paper)

London (Tate Collection): Stack (1975, mixed media, sculpture); Britain Seen from the North (1981, plastic objects); Axehead (1982, wood and mixed media, sculpture); aquatints

Minneapolis (Walker Art Center): Ordovician Pore (1989, granite and steel)

Montreal (MAC): Spiral (1983)

Paris (FNAC): Horn (1981); Test Tubes I to VI (1990); Under the Skin (1994)

Paris (FRAC Île-de-France): Minster (1985, wood, iron and tyres)

Paris (MNAM-CCI): Green Bottle (1980, plastic objects); T.V. (1982, mixed media); Opening Spiral (1982, mixed media); Bronze in Two Parts (1988, bronze); Formulation (Stance) (2000, bronze)

Rochechouart (Mus. Départemental d’Art Contemporain): Leaf (1980)

Washington, DC (Hirshhorn Mus. and Sculpture Garden): Subcommittee (1991, steel); Città (1986)

Wuppertal (Von der Heydt-Mus.): Amphore/Dose (1990–1991, bronze)

Auction Records

London, 29 June 1989: The Myth of European Culture (1984, white plastic, 118 × 70¾ ins/300 × 180 cm) GBP 22,000

New York, 5 Oct 1989: Landscape (Mountain) (1984, painted wall construction, 94 × 126 ins/238.7 × 320 cm) USD 20,900

Paris, 9 Oct 1989: Black Drawing (1984, plywood and sheet metal, assemblage, 52¾ × 41 × 57½ ins/134 × 104 × 146 cm) FRF 200,000

New York, 23 Feb 1990: The Yellow Bottle (wall panel with collection of plastic objects, 109 × 47 ins/277 × 119.4 cm) USD 55,000

New York, 14 Feb 1991: The Yellow Bottle (1982, wall panel with collection of plastic objects, 90 × 44½ ins/228.8 × 113 cm) USD 38,500

New York, 27 Feb 1992: Japanese Couple (Mr and Mrs Otani) (1984, used plastic objects, wall sculpture, 65 × 59 ins/165 × 149.8 cm) USD 39,600

Paris, 23 March 1992: Cader Idris (1986, bikes and a table under a layer of shattered plastic, 45¼ × 67 × 67 ins/115 × 170 × 170 cm) FRF 245,000

New York, 5 May 1992: Three Moulded Bottles (iron, 67¼ × 31 × 14 ins/170.9 × 78.7 × 35.5 cm and 69 × 18 × 18 ins/175.2 × 45.7 × 45.7 cm and 75 × 22 × 22 ins/190.5 × 55.8 × 55.8 cm) USD 104,500

London, 2 July 1992: Palette (1982, painted wood, plastic, carpet, plywood, adhesive, and paper, 93 × 122 ins/236 × 310 cm) GBP 30,800

New York, 18 Nov 1992: Logo (wood in eight parts, 43½ × 39½ × 65 ins/110.5 × 100.3 × 165.1 cm) USD 38,500

New York, 19 Nov 1992: Palette (oil on wood, lino, slate, and rubber foam, wall sculpture in 16 parts, 96½ × 93¼ ins/245 × 237 cm) USD 28,600

Munich, 1–2 Dec 1992: Extrusion (1990, plaster, h. 13¾ ins/35 cm) DEM 4,140

London, 3 Dec 1992: Knife, Fork, and Spoon (1981, painted wood, plastic, paper, and wood, 72 × 72 ins/183 × 183 cm) GBP 19,800

Paris, 4 Dec 1992: Upturned Carafe (crystal and wooden table, 45 × 25½ × 17¼ ins/114 × 65 × 44 cm) FRF 100,000

New York, 11 Nov 1993: Canoe (1982, collection of 80 plastic objects, 18 × 200 × 37 ins/45.7 × 508 × 94 cm) USD 23,000

London, 3 Dec 1993: Eagle (1980, pieces of broken plastic crockery, 69 × 22½ ins/175 × 57 cm) GBP 9,200

New York, 3 May 1994: Self-portrait with Desk (wooden puppet and found plastic objects, 43½ × 54 × 22 ins/110.5 × 137.2 × 55.9 cm) USD 18,400

Paris, 17 Oct 1994: Commercial Moon (1985, plastic parts, assemblage, 88½ × 49¼ ins/225 × 125 cm) FRF 120,000

New York, 22 Feb 1995: Drawn Objects: Waiting (pencil, enamel/wood, panel, and sheet metal, 86½ × 26 × 28 ins/220 × 66 × 71 cm) USD 20,700

New York, 7 May 1996: Shellfish (1986, wood covered in coloured plastic and pebbles, 60 × 96 × 72 ins/152.4 × 243.9 × 182.9 cm) USD 23,000

London, 27 June 1996: Knife, Fork, and Spoon (painted wood, plastic, paper, and wood, 72 × 72 ins/183 × 183 cm) GBP 12,650

London, 24 Oct 1996: Self-portrait (plastic and magazines, 83 × 31 ins/210.8 × 78.7 cm) GBP 25,300

London, 5 Dec 1996: Drawn Objects: Waiting (1983, pencil, enamel/wood, panel, and sheet metal, 86½ × 26 × 28 ins/220 × 66 × 71 cm) GBP 11,500; Orange Bottle (1982, assembled fragments of plastic, 102¼ × 32 ins/260 × 81.2 cm) GBP 23,000

London, 27 June 1997: Palette (1986, 130 plastic parts, 52 × 60 × 3 ins/132.1 × 152.4 × 7.6 cm) GBP 17,250

New York, 19 Nov 1997: Somersault (1987, aluminium cast) USD 34,500

New York, 19 May 1999: Untitled (1995, bronze, 62 × 42 × 42 ins/157 × 107 × 107 cm) USD 47,500

New York, 17 Nov 1999: Untitled (1988, oil on panel, 97 × 121 ins/246 × 308 cm) USD 40,000

London, 8 Feb 2001: Minster (1995, rubber, stone, wood, and metal, three, h. 91 ins/ 230 cm) GBP 40,000

London, 9 Feb 2001: Factory Fantasies II (oil and cutouts on board) GBP 7,000

London, 27 June 2002: Manipulations (1991, steel, 55 × 59 × 59 ins/140 × 150 × 150 cm) GBP 30,000

London, 23 Oct 2002: Spill (1987, bronze, 35 × 130 × 45 ins/90 × 330 × 115 cm) GBP 29,000

London, 7 Feb 2003: Fruit Bottles (bronze, seven, 26 × 230 × 102 ins/66 × 585 × 260 cm) GBP 42,000

Paris, 29 April 2003: Untitled (gouache, 11 × 17 ins/29 × 42 cm) EUR 3,200

Lokeren, 15 May 2004: Untitled (black patinated bronze, 41 × 57 × 47 ins/105 × 145 × 120 cm) EUR 60,000

London, 24 June 2004: Plastic Palette I (1985, found plastic elements, 76 × 62 ins/192 × 157 cm) GBP 32,000

London, 24 June 2005: Commercial Moon (1984, plastic, 78¾ × 65 ins/200 × 165 cm) GBP 24,000

Paris, 29 June 2005: Untitled (1998, pencil on paper, 16¼ × 16¼ ins/41 × 41 cm) EUR 3,000

Paris, 4 April 2006: Spiel (1988, wood, 45 × 25½ ins/114 × 65 cm) EUR 30,000

London, 22 June 2006: Hannibal (2002, wood and metal hooks, 18½ × 22½ × 16¼ ins/47 × 57 × 41 cm) GBP 14,400 (premium)

London, 15 Oct 2007: Level Head (2005, bronze, 35¾ × 25½ × 23½ ins/91 × 65 × 60 cm) GBP 72,500 (premium); Relatives (2004, bronze, 26¾ × 26 × 22¾ ins/68 × 66 × 58 cm) GBP 66,500 (premium)

New York, 16 Nov 2007: Island (1993, plaster, 23 × 33 × 36 ins/59 × 84 × 92 cm) USD 75,400 (premium)

London, 29 Feb 2008: Untitled (1991, plaster and glass, 41 × 37 × 46 ins/104 × 94 × 117 cm) GBP 48,500 (includes premium)

London, 22 Oct 2008: Secretion (Urge) (2000, dice coated polystyrene, h. 108¼ ins/275 cm) GBP 48,800 (premium)

London, 17 Oct 2009: Blue Horn (Axt) (1982, mixed media, 40 found and painted objects, 69 × 141¾ × 185 ins/175 × 360 × 470 cm) GBP 135,290 (premium)

New York, 12 Nov 2009: Bent of Mind (2003, bronze, 48 × 24 × 31½ ins/122 × 61 × 80 cm) USD 254,500 (premium)

London, 12 Feb 2010: Untitled (2003, wood, 65 × 35½ × 35½ ins/165 × 90 × 90 cm) GBP 49,250 (premium)

New York, 17 Dec 2010: Palette (1984, found plastic objects with painted acrylic panel and instructions, 73 × 78¾ ins/185 × 199 cm) USD 74,500 (premium)

New York, 11 May 2011: Divide (2005, steel, 132¾ × 39¼ × 31½ ins/337 × 100 × 80 cm) USD 812,500 (premium)

Paris, 7–8 Dec 2011: Early Forms (1993, bronze, 78¾ × 98½ × 118 ins/200 × 250 × 300 cm) EUR 216,750 (premium)

London, 13 Oct 2012: Bent of Mind (2003, bronze, 47¼ × 27½ × 23½ ins/120 × 70 × 60 cm) GBP 229,250 (premium)

New York, 14 Nov 2012: TC/S 17 (2010, bronze, 83 × 30 × 30 ins/211 × 76 × 76 cm) USD 482,500 (premium)

London, 19 Oct 2013: Untitled (2) (mixed media/granite, sans dims) GBP 242,500 (premium)

Zurich, 4–7 Dec 2013: Untitled (2008, steel, 52 × 26½ × 26½ ins/132 × 67 × 67 cm) CHF 384,000 (premium)

Cologne, 27 May 2014: Untitled (2010, bronze, 82¾ × 29½ × 29½ ins/210 × 75 × 75 cm) EUR 330,000

London, 18 Oct 2014: Early Form (2002, bronze, 52 × 155½ × 56 ins/132 × 395 × 142 cm) GBP 218,500 (premium)

London, 2 July 2015: WT (Two Columns) (2011, bronze, sans dims) GBP 437,000 (premium)

London 16 Oct 2015: Untitled (2012, steel, 79½ × 31½ × 26¾ ins/202 × 80 × 68 cm) GBP 257,000 (premium)

London, 11 Feb 2016: Untitled (2004, black diabase, 63 × 28½ × 29 ins/160 × 72 × 74 cm) GBP 197,000 (premium)

New York, 3 March 2016: Untitled (2003, steel, 119 × 31¾ × 31¾ ins/302 × 81 × 81 cm) USD 370,000 (premium)

Bibliography

  • Besson, Christian: ‘Tony Cragg’, in Public no. 1, Éditions Spéciales, Paris, 1984.
  • Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, ARC Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1985.
  • Debecque-Michel Laurence: ‘Tony Cragg ou la magie de l’objet’, in Opus international no. 111, Paris, 1988.
  • Piguet, Ph.: Tony Cragg: Sculptures, exhibition catalogue, Val de Vesle, Église de Courmelois, 1988.
  • Sterckx, Pierre: ‘Tony Cragg’, in Artstudio no. 10, Autumn, Galerie Templon, Paris, 1988.
  • Schimmel, Paul: Tony Cragg, Sculpture 1975–1990, exhibition catalogue, Thames and Hudson, London and New York, 1991.
  • Claustres, Annie: ‘Tony Cragg’, in Cahiers du Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, Winter 1995–1996.
  • Bond, Anthony/Hopper, Robert: Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1997.
  • Celant, Germano, and others: Tony Cragg: Signs of Life, exhibition catalogue, Electa, Milan, 2003.
  • Zahm, Olivier (preface), and others: Trésors publics, 20 ans de création dans les Fonds régionaux d’art contemporain, Flammarion, Paris, 2003 (text in French and English).
  • Pratesi, Ludovico: Tony Cragg: Material Thoughts, exhibition catalogue, Electa, Milan; Amalgamated Book Services, Maidstone (UK), 2008.
  • Elliott, Patrick: Tony Cragg: Sculptures and Drawings, Yale University Press, in association with National Galleries of Scotland, New Haven (CT), 2011.