Michael Craig-Martin

Biography of Michael Craig-Martin

Michael Craig-Martin is a prominent Irish-British contemporary conceptual artist, painter, author, and teacher. His most renowned work is arguably An Oak Tree, 1973 in which he claimed to have transformed a glass of water into an oak tree. He regularly uses mass-produced, everyday objects, images, and materials in his art, in the early years choosing to focus mainly on drawings and box designs (Box That Never Closes, 1967). Gradually his focus has shifted to other mediums, such as painting, printmaking, and installations, however he continues to depict ordinary household objects. His works explore fundamental questions on the nature of art, representation, authorship, and the role of the viewer. His oeuvre has evolved from his early conceptual works to a distinct and easily identifiable style whose complexity of form and content send a clear message about art in the modern era.

Born in 1941 in Dublin, Michael Craig-Martin spent most of his childhood in Washington D.C. After studying English Literature and History in New York he changed subjects and began studying painting at Yale, where the course was heavily influenced by Josef Albers’ theories on color and form. Michael Craig-Martin has claimed that “everything he knows about color comes from this course.” His tutors at Yale included legendary figurative painter Alex Katz.


Now commonly referred to as the godfather of the Young British Artists, Michael Craig-Martin is well known as an influential professor at Goldsmiths College in London. He greatly influenced two generations of young British artists, including notable former pupils Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, and Sarah Lucas.


Michael Craig-Martin’s work has been widely exhibited in the UK and abroad. Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin and the Serpentine Gallery in London. His work is held in public collections across the globe including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and Museo Nacional Centro de Art Reine Sofía in Madrid.

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