Michael Craig-Martin in Conversation with Jonathan Watkins



Thursday, 28 February
18.00, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN

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Speaker(s): Michael Craig-Martin; Jonathan Watkins
Ticket/entry details: (£3). Advance booking required. BOOK ONLINE here: http://courtauld-institute.digitalmuseum.co.uk
Organised by: Martin Caiger-Smith (The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Michael Craig-Martin’s An Oak Tree, first exhibited in 1974, is one of the most provocative and telling art works of our times. A glass of tap water on a glass shelf, it could not be more transparently what it is, but the artist asserts it is an oak tree. Not just called an oak tree, nor merely a symbol of an oak tree: through a kind of transubstantiation it is an oak tree.

This public conversation, between Michael Craig-Martin and Jonathan Watkins, Director of Ikon Gallery, revisits the still contentious claims of this work to tackle fundamental questions about the nature of art itself. It will dwell on the essentially religious impulse of art, the necessary (if not sufficient) factor of faith through which art is identified as art, better than non- art, deemed good for us and somehow transcendental. And it will provide an opportunity for lively speculation on the future for art without such faith.


Michael Craig-Martin
was born in Dublin in 1941, educated in the United States, and has lived in London since the mid-60s. He is a key figure in the history of British conceptual art over the last decades, both for his work and his teaching. His work, in a variety of media, from painting and modest-scaled sculptures made of household materials to ambitious and large-scale installations of wall paintings, both temporary and permanent, has been shown widely here and abroad, including at recent retrospectives at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (2006/7) and Kunsthaus Bregenz (2006). As Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, he has exerted a powerful influence on generations of young British artists, including Damien Hirst and Julian Opie.

Jonathan Watkins
has been Director of Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, since 1999. He has curated a number of large international exhibitions including the Biennale of Sydney (1998),
Facts of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art (Hayward Gallery, London 2001), Quotidiana (Castello di Rivoli, Turin 1999), The Tate Triennial (2003), Shanghai Biennale (2006), Sharjah Biennial (2007), and the Guangzhou Triennial (2012). He writes extensively on contemporary art, including, recently, Giuseppe Penone, Martin Creed, Semyon Faibisovich, Yang Zhenzhong, Noguchi Rika, Caro Niederer, Beat Streuli and Cornelia Parker. He was the author of a recent monograph on Japanese artist On Kawara.


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