The Art of Tony Cragg

Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool, England, in 1949. He is known for his broad use of materials including plastic, wood, stone, metal and household objects such as glass bottles. His expressions of form range from abstraction to figuration. Drawing from his experience as a biologist, much of his work is based on organic shapes similar to cellular life seen under a microscope. Cragg has created many sculptures made of bronze, a more traditional fine arts material. Frequently, his large-scale sculptures are organic, abstract and reflect a sense of dynamic movement.

Education, Exhibitions and Honors

Before attending Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Cheltenham College, Mr. Cragg worked as a laboratory technician at the Natural Rubber Producers Research Association from 1966-68. He achieved a BA from Wimbledon College of Art (1970–73) and an MA from the Royal College of Art, London (1973–77). In 2009, he was appointed Director of Kunst Akademie Dusseldorf and now currently lives and works in Wuppertal, Germany.

Cragg’s work has been the subject of many international exhibitions including: Tate Liverpool (2000); Cass Sculpture Foundation (2005); Ca’Pesaro Galleria International d’Arte Moderna in Venice (2010); The Louvre, Paris (2011) and the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh (2011). In 2012, Tony Cragg exhibited completely new works along Exhibition Road and inside some of its neighboring museums, including the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Tony Cragg at Exhibition Road was curated by Cass Sculpture Foundation. More recently Cragg has exhibited at The Benaki Museum, Athens; Duomo of Milan, Italy; Sweden Gothenburg International Sculpture Exhibition and The Salzburg Foundation, Germany (2015).

Mr. Cragg won the Turner Prize in 1988 and represented Britain at the 42nd Venice Biennale in the same year. In 1994, he was elected Royal Academician and in 2007 he was awarded the Premium Imperiale for Sculpture. In addition, Cragg has been the recipient the Order of Merit of North Rhine-Westphalia (2018); the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, The International Sculpture Center (2017); the Barnett Newman Foundation Award (2016); the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, (CBE) (2016); the Rheinischer Kulturpreis, Sparkassen Kulturstiftung, Rhineland (2013); the Cologne Fine Art Award (2012); and the prestigious Premium Imperiale Award, Tokyo (2007). He represented Britain at the 43rd Venice Biennale in 1988.

Style and Substance

Tony Cragg began his artistic career at a time when Minimalism and Conceptual Art were developing rapidly. As such, Cragg recognized the need to produce work that developed “an alphabet of sculpture” from pre-established conventional art materials and techniques. In the 1970’s, his works were mostly made with found objects through which Cragg tested material possibilities. He soon became acclaimed for his sculptures and pictures which consisted of fragments of furniture, household objects of different materials, plastic toys, etc., which were often chosen for their color, and which, laid out on the floor or fixed to a wall, together created and portrayed forms recognizable from everyday life. Later pieces demonstrated a shift of interest to surface quality and how this element could be manipulated through unlikely juxtapositions of materials such as bronze, steel, plastic, rubber, glass, wood, plaster and more.

These found works developed into a series of fabricated objects, which he titled Early Forms in which Cragg’s interest was in the idea of a container as metaphor for the body. His later works, known as Rational Beings, develop this interest into a series of detailed columns that were no longer evocative of organic form, but more so with the dynamic. In these works, profiles emerge and disappear from their surfaces and thereby push towards a new abstracted understanding of the human figure. Recently he has been expressing concepts of compression and expansion in his works where recognizable forms such as distorted facial profiles become apparent. These works have an almost futuristic element to them, and have been compared to the technology associated with 3D printing.

His sculptures can largely be organized into groups according to the different materials from which they are made: stone, clay, bronze, glass, and different synthetic materials like plastic or fiberglass. His sensitivity to different materials is the starting point for his work. To a great extent, his choice of material determines the form he chooses to create. Different materials give different emotional experiences, both for the artist and observers. According to the artist, the material he uses gives birth to the thought; the different properties of a material give rise to the idea, which, in turn, produces the form.

In addition to his sculptures, a recent exhibition of Cragg’s included a series of drawings, which allows us to understand how Cragg created his works. Sometimes these drawings functioned as blueprints for the sculptures. But above all, the drawings reveal how the sculptures arose just as much out of their material and from the process that demands, as they arose from conscious planning and thought.

Creating a ‘Conversation’ Between Artist and Observers

To many observers, his sculptures from the latest decade are often interpreted as abstract, but yet they can still evoke feelings, ideas, fantasies and allusions to something we believe we have seen and experienced before. According to Cragg himself, his sculptures are “fictional entities where decisions are made entirely on an aesthetic basis.” In essence, the sculptor invests his skill in the material and is, himself, enriched with new knowledge. And observers are offered new experiences and ideas by the sculpture as they actively seek to follow the artist in his work. As a result, a dialogue, effected by the sculpture, arises between the artist and the observer.

Solo Exhibitions

There have been many important solo exhibitions of Cragg’s work worldwide, most recently at: Giadrdino di Boboli, Florence, Italy (2019); MUDAM Luxembourg (2017); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK (2017); Museo Nacional Havana, Cuba (2017); Von der Heydt, Wuppertal, Germany (2016); Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia (2016); Benaki Museum, Athens (2015); Madison Square Park, New York (2014); Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan (2014); Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany (2013); CAFA Art Museum, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (2012); The Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas (2011); Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2011); and the Musée du Louvre, Paris (2011).

Add the Works of Tony Cragg to Your Own Collection

The British sculptor Tony Cragg is one of the most acclaimed artists of his generation. Keep an eye out for live auctions in Dania Beach for the chance to add a work from this internationally acclaimed artist to your collection. There are occasions to participate in auctions via phone or online from anywhere in the world. Keeping an eye on Dania Beach auctions can help a person discover opportunities to obtain one of his acclaimed works.

Selling the Works of Tony Cragg

Do you have works by Tony Cragg that you are interested in selling, appraising, or cosigning? Call Joshua Kodner today, and ensure you receive the true value of your property.