Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool, England in 1949. He has lived and worked in Wuppertal, Germany since 1977. He is one of the world's most distinguished contemporary sculptors, drawing on both the natural world and industrial systems to create new forms of sculptural language. Cragg's abiding interest in providing an alternative to the utilitarian sphere is in every exhibition, as he presents a visually compelling, vital and diverse new category of forms beyond the mediated nature populating our current reality.
Cragg began making work 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 questioned and tested material possibilities. Later pieces demonstrated a shift of interest to surface quality and how this 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 vessels, 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 articulated columns, no longer concerned with the organic, but 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 confronting notions of compression and expansion in his works where recognizable forms such as facial profiles, although distorted, become apparent. These works have an almost futuristic element to them, reminiscent of technology synonymous with 3D printing or engineering more familiar at NASA.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Order of Merit of North Rhine-Westphalia (2018); the Lifetime Acheivement 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); the prestigious Praemium Imperiale Award, Tokyo (2007). He represented Britain at the 43rd Venice Biennale in 1988, and the same year was awarded the Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery, London. He served as Director of the Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf, after having been a Professor there since 1988. In the 2016 Birthday Honours, Cragg was created a Knight Bachelor for services to visual arts and UK-German relations.
Cragg’s work is held in numerous international museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; Zentrum fur Kunst and Medien, Karlsruhe, Germany; Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Tate Modern, London; and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, among others.