PaperCity Magazine

November 2014 - Houston

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ON PORTRAITS WITH LIGHT. Those were pre-LED technology. They are computer portraits, and they aren't tapes or disks. They are live computers, and the computer is deciding itself, randomly, what color it should use in every different section of the portrait. So it's almost the equivalent of a living person because it's changing constantly. Whatever you see at any particular moment, no one else will ever see exactly the same configuration, maybe for 1,500 years … I started computer works around the early 2000s, maybe 2002. And then the portraits came a little later, around 2006. They're quite complicated to put together. ON YOU AND THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO. Next year is the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo, which was won by the Duke of Wellington when he defeated Napoleon. It was one of the greatest victories in British history. When he won the battle, he was a major hero, and he was given a fantastic house called Apsley House, right on Hyde Park Corner, which actually has the address of 1 London. His descendent, the present Lord Douro, has commissioned me to do a new computer portrait of the Duke of Wellington, which will hang in the house next year at the beginning of the celebration of the bicentennial. It's an amazing honor, and an amazing thing to do. And that's because they saw the portrait of Lady Burlington. LET'S CHAT CHATSWORTH AND LADY BURLINGTON. She's an incredibly lovely person. We've become very close friends. She's just charming to spend time with. She actually will be the next Duchess of Devonshire. That's why the portraits are done. And the amazing thing about my portrait is that there's a tradition of painting the portraits of the Duchess of Devonshire, so the house has portraits by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Sargent, Lucian Freud — and me. That's not a bad list. ABOUT YOUR ASTOUNDING PINK PLINTH ROOM. The Duke and Duchess [of Devonshire] are such wonderful people, and they asked me to do the sculptures [on the lawn], but then they wanted me to do some kind of intervention in [Chatsworth]. It is such a vast house of such historical importance, and I was very uneasy about what to do. Finally the Duke said, "Michael, the Duchess and I really think you've been intimidated by the house." And I said, "Yes, I am. That's very true!" And he said, "I want you to tell me right now: What would you do if you didn't feel worried?" And I said, "What I'd like to do is to have you change all of the plinths on all of the sculptures in the house and make them magenta." And he said, "That's fine! That's what we'll do!" And it actually makes the sculptures come alive. It worked better than what I could have ever imagined. There is a book in preparation, which will be called Michael Craig-Martin at Chatsworth, and there are the most fabulous pictures of all of the things I did there. It's a stunning document, and it will be finished in the next few months. FIRST PUBLIC ARTWORK. In the '70s, a neon drawing, commissioned by the Margate Public Library, which is a sort of seaside town in Britain, and they had just built a new library. So I did a huge 10-foot-high drawing of a book and made it look as though the pages were turning. So it was a kind of beckoning over the front door of the library. But over the years, it kind of fell apart and they didn't repair it, and finally they just tore the library down, so the thing was gone. A couple of years later, they built a new contemporary gallery there, and the curator knew of this work that I had done, so they commissioned it to be remade. It's now above the reception at the Margate Gallery. So that was the very first one. The grandest one I've ever done is in Luxembourg at the headquarters of the European Investment Bank. It's a wonderful wall made of Corian, which is kind of like the stuff they use in kitchens. It's a beautiful surface, fabulous colors, 250 feet long and 14 feet high, and all inlaid, done like marquetry. It's unbelievable that something like that could be made. ANECDOTE FROM YOUR TIME TEACHING YBAS. During the mid-'80s, I went to an opening at the Anthony d'Offay Gallery — absolutely the gallery in London. And suddenly I recognized the waiter that had just served me champagne: It was Damien Hirst, who at the time was a first- or second-year student at Goldsmiths. Damien had gotten himself a part time job at the gallery while he was a student. He had recognized the importance of understanding a gallery, realizing how it worked. He was already thinking like that. And, you can see what happened. His instincts for understanding how the art world works were honed from a very young age. ON THE PERILS OF EARLY FAME. Well, I speak from the point of view of somebody who's 73 years old. I look back and think I've had a fantastically interesting life. I'm very grateful now that I didn't have my biggest success when I was 28. I'm having my biggest success now. That's much better! I myself have never felt more engaged in things. I have opportunities that had never come to me when I was younger. PHOTOGRAPHY DAVID VINTINER. COURTESY GAGOSIAN GALLERY. © MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN. Clockwise from top left: Michael Craig-Martin's installation at Chatsworth House, 2014 Michael Craig-Martin's Untitled, commissioned portrait (George Michael), 2007 Michael Craig-Martin's installation at Chatsworth House, 2014 Michael Craig-Martin's Eye of the Storm, 2002 Michael Craig-Martin's Untitled commissioned portrait (Kenny Goss), 2007 "HAVING MICHAEL AS MY TUTOR COMPLETELY CHANGED THE WAY I THOUGHT ABOUT ART … MICHAEL'S AN OAK TREE (1973) … I THINK IT'S UP THERE WITH THE GREATEST ART WORKS OF THE 20TH CENTURY." — DAMIEN HIRST, AS TOLD TO PAPERCITY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2014 "Having Michael as my tutor completely changed the way I thought about art. I'd been walking around with blinkers on until then, obsessing about work from the past, being very nostalgic about the '50s and '60s and just looking for bits of colored wood on the ground to make collages from. But Michael's An Oak Tree (1973) completely changed all that. It made me realize that conceptual art wasn't shit; it was the way forward. I wanted to harness the incredible power of art that exists in the mind of viewers. I still do. I still can't get that work out of my head. I think it's up there with the greatest art works of the 20th century." — Damien Hirst, artist and former student; as told to PaperCity "Michael Craig-Martin has been seminal in shaping and nurturing the British contemporary art scene for the past 30 years. Having a citywide project with Michael's paintings and sculpture will be important and exciting for Dallas — an international event." — Peter Doroshenko, director, Dallas Contemporary "We were drawn to Michael's work because it's a wonderfully vibrant mix of Pop and conceptual art, and it always feels fresh and original." — Christen Wilson, collector/patron "Michael was perhaps better known for the influence of his teaching than for his own art … Recently, I would say, that balance has shifted. He makes paintings and sculptures that are sly and complex in form and content, visually arresting and quite memorable." — Jeremy Strick, director, Nasher Sculpture Center "Like all great artists, Michael forces us to view the world differently, often challenging our understanding of the 'familiar' through surprising shifts in color and scale." — Gavin Delahunty, senior curator, Dallas Museum of Art "I met Michael at a dinner for Jeff Koons in London. I was seated next to him. I had already purchased works of his for our collection. He is now a very close friend … Let's just say he is one of a very small group of artists that is part of the British school curriculum." — Kenny Goss, co-founder, The Goss-Michael Foundation "Michael is a tremendous teacher — very charismatic in person and very intelligent in his approach. He was quiet, sensitive and had a terrific sense of humor. He had a very strong presence in the school [Goldsmiths]." — Richard Patterson, artist and former student THOUGHTS ON MICHAEL: WHAT WE KNOW TO BE TRUE COLLECTION THE GOSS-MICHAEL FOUNDATION, DALLAS. © MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN. COLLECTION THE GOSS-MICHAEL FOUNDATION, DALLAS. © MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN. PHOTOGRAPHY MATTHEW BULLEN. COURTESY GAGOSIAN GALLERY. © MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN. COURTESY GAGOSIAN GALLERY. © MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN.

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