Tony Cragg was born in Liverpool in 1949. He worked as a laboratory technician at the Natural Rubber Producers Research Association 1966-68 before attending Gloucestershire College of Art and Design, Cheltenham College. He achieved a BA from Wimbledon College of Art (1970–73) and an MA from the Royal College of Art, London (1973–77). He has lived and worked in Wuppertal, Germany, since 1977. In 2009, he was appointed Director of Kunstakademie Dusseldorf.
Cragg began working at a time when Minimalism and Concept Art were gaining ground.
Cragg recognised the need to produce work that developed “an alphabet of sculpture” from “all the materials and techniques that have been discovered to date.” Early works of the seventies were mostly made with found objects through which Cragg questioned and tested 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. Cragg’s found works developed into a series of fabricated ‘vessels’. These pestles and mortars, flasks, test tubes and vessels from which liquid flowed are clearly inspired by his early experience as a laboratory technician. These developed into a series entitled ‘Early Forms’ in which Cragg’s interest was in the ‘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—as profiles emerge and disappear from their surfaces.
Tony 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 Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture.
Cragg’s work has been the subject of many international exhibitions, with recent exhibitions including: Tate Liverpool 2000; Cass Sculpture Foundation, 2005; Ca’Pesaro Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna in Venice, 2010; The Louvre in Paris, 2011 and the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh 2011.
The year 2012 saw an exhibition of new Cragg works along Exhibition Road and inside some of its neighbouring museums, including the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. This exhibition, entitled ‘Tony Cragg at Exhibition Road’ was curated by the Cass Sculpture Foundation and ran from 25 August to the 25 November 2012. Visit our What's On/External Exhibitions page to find out more about this exhibition.
More recently Tony's work was also part of the travelling exhibition 'Tony Cragg: Sculpture and Drawings', exhibited in China and Taiwan (12 January - 24 March 2013).
Tony Cragg currently lives and works in Wuppertal, Germany.