Museum of Contemporary Sculpture
Center of Polish Sculpture
11th June – 30th October 2016
Curator: Eulalia Domanowska
Cooperation: Jarosław Pajek, Bogusław Dobrowolski
After almost 20 years the Polish public will again have a chance to admire the works of Tony Cragg – one of the best-known sculptors in the world, who together with several other British artists such as Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor or Mark Wallinger create the power of contemporary English sculpture. His works are found in museums, private collections, in city squares and in famous sculpture parks. Tony Cragg’s art was quickly noticed and recognized by art world. It was 1988 that turned to be pivotal when the artist represented Great Britain at the 43rd Biennale in Venice and in the same year received the prestigious Turner Prize in London.
He combines varied form, inclination to experiment and unfailing perfection. He used to repeat that “The future of sculpture has only just begun. Its potential is greater now than ever before and its possibilities are just starting. Its language and its forms are just beginning to evolve…”. In the days when the notion of sculpture has been extended with ready-made objects, installations or virtual sculptures, Tony Cragg consistently promotes its classical understanding. In the face of modern science and technology, and the transformations which have happened in the practice and theory of art, he manages to advocate the significant role of sculpture and does not sound like a guardian of a dying tradition. He is regarded as a master of material. His works are made in bronze, stone, glass, ceramic, resins or wood; they delight with their organic form, dynamics of meandering shape, intriguing titles. They are situated between abstract art and figurative art.
During his studies at the Royal College of Art, the artist’s attention was drawn by such artists as Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz or Richard Long. His thinking about art was shaped by representatives of the Italian Atre Povera, and then American minimalism. A feature that was revealed in his early works, and then continued in the following decades was his innovative and experimenting attitude to the material. Initially, he used found, ready made things and combined them into new entities. An example shown at the present exhibition at the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko is the work “Minster” from 1988. Columns consisting of metal rings reveal Cragg’s fascination with Marcel Duchamp’s Dadaist concept of ready-mades and with the products of metal industry. It could have appeared in the artist’s early youth while watching his father working; he was an engineer and worked for the aviation industry.
In the 90s, Cragg becomes attracted to classical sculptural materials and the organic world of nature. He develops an interest in the work of such masters as Naum Gabo, Constantin Brâncuşi, especially his Paris work “Endless Column” from 1937, as well as in the oeuvre of the British classic of the 20th century, Henry Moore. Using bronze, wood, stone, elegant stainless steel or resin, he creates organic forms which rotate, undergo compression or other transformation. It is his series “Early Forms” and sculptures made of human profiles that represent this tendency in a particular way. Expressive shapes seem to reflect the physical and mental forces that form their matter. What plays the crucial role however is not the matter but expressing emotions. Such tendencies are perceptible in Cragg’s oeuvre till today.
The artist draws inspiration from various sources and areas of life. Jon Wood, English scholar and historian of art notices that “Sculpture, for Cragg, represents an active way of interrogating the world and a catalyst for heightening our sensitivity to it. It is needed, for him, not only to visualise, shape and demonstrate complicated ideas, but also to explore the material world and uncover its possibilities. Thus biology, as much as chemistry and physics, guides his critical thinking about sculpture and enables him to rethink its role and imagine its potential today”. At the same time Tony Cragg gave sculpture a new quality and became its contemporary classic.
Since 1977 the artist has lived in Wuppertal, where he opened up his atelier. Since 2006 he has been running Waldfrieden Sculpture Park, situated in a landscape nature reserve. Apart from his own works, you can see there the works of other brilliant contemporary artists, as well as temporary exhibitions presented in galleries situated in the park and a remarkable villa of organic shape, inspired by the ideas of Austrian anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner. The artistic programme is complemented by seminars and concerts.
Tony Cragg combined creative work with teaching. He was professor at Art University (Universität der Künste, UdK) in Berlin, and from 1988 to 2001 at Art Academy in Dusseldorf, where he was director for 10 years. Over the last three decades his works have been shown in many prestigious museums, galleries and festivals all over the world, such as Kröller-Müller Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Louvre Museum, Galerie Belvedere in Vienna, at Biennale CAFAM in Beijing, Art Museum in Lima, several times at Documenta in Kassel in Germany and many others. He is represented by the Lisson Gallery in London with which he has been collaborating since 1979.
The exhibition at the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko is so far the most extensive presentation of the artist’s work in Poland; we are showing over 40 different works from the period 1984-2015, which make a representative review of his fascinating oeuvre. Exhibited both in all galleries and in the park, they give us a unique opportunity to get to know the art of one of the most famous and most significant contemporary sculptors. Apart from his spatial works we also present a selection of his drawings and watercolours which are independent series of artworks, and give the viewer a wider idea of Tony Cragg’s oeuvre. The Centre of Polish Sculpture has also prepared a special educational programme accompanying this exhibition. Besides, a part of the exhibition will be presented next year at the Contemporary Museum in Wrocław, which is the project partner and a co-publisher of the catalogue. The publication will be released this summer and will contain texts by Jon Wood, Dorota Monkiewicz and Eulalia Domanowska analyzing Tony Cragg’s oeuvre in various aspects in the context of contemporary sculpture in Poland and in the world, as well as an interview with the artist and a rich illustrative material documenting his achievements in the realm of sculpture over the last 20 years.
The project is implemented with the collaboration of Bogusław Dobrowolski and Jarosław Pajek as well as the staff of the Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko.
The exhibition is held under the honorary patronage of the British Ambassador to Poland and the British Council in Warsaw.
 Jon Wood, Terms and Conditions: An Interview with Tony Cragg
 Ibidem, p. 1.
 The exhibition “Tony Cragg. Sculpture” is the third presentation of his works in Poland. The first took place in 1988 at Foksal Gallery in Warsaw, the second in 1997 at the Centre of Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw and at Bunkier Sztuki Gallery in Krakow.
Ongoing solo exhibitions
Von Der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal
Tony Cragg Retrospektive, Parts of the World. 19.4 – 14.8 2016
Galerie Thadddaeus Ropac, Paris
Tony Cragg, 21.2 – 30.6 2016