Michael Craig-Martin’s first book of collected writings is part reminiscence, part personal manifesto, part anecdote and advice for the aspiring artist. Published by ART/BOOKS, it is available to order now.
In On Being An Artist, Craig-Martin reflects on the many people, ideas and events that have shaped his professional life. He recounts his time studying under the influence of legendary artist Josef Albers at Yale University School of Art alongside Chuck Close, Richard Serra and other soon-to-be-famous radicals; his memories of meeting personal heroes such as Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and John Cage for the time; his efforts to explain his art to a bewildered astrophysicist at high table at King’s College, Cambridge; his astonishment at seeing the house and art collection of Charles Saatchi for the first time; and his surreal experience of staking out Christine Keeler at the height of the Profumo scandal.
He recalls, too, his first tentative steps as a practising artist and emergence as a key figure of early conceptual art in Britain. He also looks back on his achievements as a teacher at Goldsmiths, where he nurtured two generations of students, among them Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas, earning himself the sobriquet ‘the godfather of the YBAs’. As he considers the development of his own career and the evolution of the art world over the last half century, he offers the benefit of insights gained from his professional highs and lows, revealing the essential attributes and knowledge that one needs as an artist today. He also tackles controversial issues such as the fashionability of contemporary art, the enduring status of painting, the relevance of life drawing and practical skills, the qualities of art schools, the role of commercial dealers, the importance of speaking clearly about art, and the judgment of what is good and bad in art.
On Being An Artist provides lesson after valuable lesson to anyone wishing to know what it means and what it takes to be an artist today.