Michael Craig-Martin is Sir Michael Craig-Martin, a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, a painter, conceptual artist and teacher, who has nurtured and inspired many contemporary artists, including the Young British Artists.
Early Life and Education
Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941. His father took a job in Washington DC when Craig-Martin was five, so he was raised and educated in the U.S. Craig-Martin received his BA and MFA degrees from Yale and taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York for a year, before moving to Britain in 1966. He taught at the Bath Academy of Art and had his first solo exhibition at the Rowan Gallery in London in 1969.
Career and Family
After his first solo exhibition, Craig-Martin taught at Canterbury College of Art for two years and, in 1970, was Artist-in-Residence at King’s College in Cambridge.
His career as a conceptual artist took off when he exhibited An Oak Tree at the Rowan gallery in 1974. An Oak Tree, now at the Tate, is composed of a glass of water sitting on a small, glass bathroom shelf. Along with the piece, Craig-Martin displayed a series of questions and answers that address the conceptual thought process.
“I considered that in An Oak Tree I had deconstructed the work of art in such a way as to reveal its single basic and essential element,” he wrote, “belief that is the confident faith of the artist in his capacity to speak and the willing faith of the viewer in accepting what he has to say.”
The same year that An Oak Tree was shown, Craig-Martin began to teach at Goldsmith’s College at the University of London. It was at Goldsmith’s where he encouraged his students to do what they love to do. The Young British Artists, like Damien Hirst, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Liam Gillick, took Craig-Martin’s advice, and have done well.
Craig-Martin was married to Jan Hashey, with whom he had a daughter, Photographer Jessica Craig-Martin. The couple is divorced.
Craig-Martin was appointed Trustee of the Tate Gallery in London in 1989, appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001 and knighted in 2016.
His current works look at the everyday objects we have all around us. “I feel that right now I am doing work that has a certain simplicity and clarity that I could never have done without the previous 50 years,’ he said in a 2016 interview in The Guardian, “I’ll be 75 next year. Hopefully it’s a little bit like Frank Sinatra’s last tour: I do see what I am doing now as late work. But that doesn’t preclude much later work.”
Craig-Martin’s work is included in collections around the world, including the Tate, London, the Centre Georges Pompidou and MoMA.