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date: 10 April 2020

Cragg, Tony or Anthonyfree

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

1980, New Pictures (Nuova Immagine), Milan

1980, A Perspective, Basel

1982, 1987, Documenta, Kassel

1983, São Paulo Biennale

1991, Carnegie International, Pittsburgh

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; Sense of Place (Esprit des Lieux), on contemporary art and its exhibition space, at the Palais des Papes, Avignon (both part of the 20the anniversary celebrations of the FRAC, the Regional Collection of Contemporary Art

2006, Glass: Material Matters, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (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 (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 (an exhibition organised to celebrate the institute's 30th anniversary)

Solo Exhibitions

1984, Louisiana Museum for Modern Art, Humlebaek

1984, Kölner Kunstverein, Cologne

1985, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich

1985, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

1985, ARC Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

1986, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York

1986, Lisson Gallery, London

1987, Hayward Gallery, London

1988, Venice Biennale (representing Britain)

1989, Tate Gallery, London

1989, Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven

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

1994, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes

1995, Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne, Paris

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

1997, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London

1998, Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris

1999, Musée Départemental de Rochchouart Hors-les-Murs, St-Yriex-la-Perche

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

2003, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (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

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 Gallery 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 (cristal 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

Bibliography

  • Besson, Christian: ‘Tony Cragg’ in Public n° 1, p. 48, periodical, Éd. spéciales, Paris, 1984.
  • Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, ARC Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 1985.
  • Piguet, Ph.: Tony Cragg: sculptures, exhibition catalogue, Val de Vesle, Église de Courmelois, 1988.
  • Sterckx, Pierre: ‘Tony Cragg’ in Artstudio n° 10, pp. 104-119, periodical, Gal. Templon, Paris, autumn 1988.
  • Debecque-Michel, Laurence: ‘Tony Cragg ou la magie de l'objet’ in Opus international n° 111, pp. 65-66, periodical, Paris, 1988.
  • Schimmel, Paul: Tony Cragg, Sculpture 1975-1990, exhibition catalogue, Thames and Hudson, London and New York, 1991 (exhibition held at the Newport Harbor Art Museum and travelling).
  • Claustres, Annie: ‘Tony Cragg’ in Cahiers du musée national d'Art moderne, periodical, Paris, winter 1995-1996.
  • Bond, Anthony/Hopper, Robert: Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1997.
  • Zahm, Olivier (preface), et al.: Trésors publics, 20 ans de création dans les Fonds régionaux d'art contemporain, Flammarion, Paris, 2003 (text in French and English).
  • Celant, Germano, et al.: Tony Cragg: Signs of Life, exhibition catalogue, Electa, Milan, 2003 (exhibition held at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Rome).