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 and now currently lives and works in Wuppertal, Germany.
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 including: Tate Liverpool (2000); Cass Sculpture Foundation (2005); Ca’Pesaro Galleria Internazionale 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 neighbouring 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).
Tony Cragg began making work at a time when Minimalism and Conceptual Art were developing rapidly. As such Cragg recognised 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 recognisable 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.