A new sculpture, an immensely tall purple fountain pen, by one of Britain’s most celebrated artists, Michael Craig-Martin RA, will be unveiled outside the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government on Walton Street, Oxford on 23rd September 2021. The artist will be present for the unveiling.
The sculpture, Fountain Pen 2019, is a vivid magenta in colour and balances strikingly on the single point of the pen’s nib. The piece was commissioned by the Blavatnik School of Government from the artist to provide a piece of public artwork that would celebrate the University of Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, where the Blavatnik School of Government is based. The artwork will be accessible to all and is intended to express the research and learning carried out in the city.
Craig-Martin said: “The image I proposed for Oxford was that of a fountain pen. The image can be seen as a reference to serious study and learning, particularly to the signing of important documents, an age-old formality that connects, like Oxford itself, the past and the present, and which is recognised globally.”
Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, said:
“When the Blavatnik School building was granted planning approval, one of the conditions was that we would commission a piece of freely accessible public art. We’re delighted to have Michael Craig-Martin’s striking work – he is already known in Oxford for his mural at the JR Children’s Hospital and we hope his new installation will further contribute to the city’s environment and community.”
The Blavatnik School of Government was advised by The Royal Academy of Arts in commissioning the sculpture. Former president Christopher Le Brun and former Artistic Director, Tim Marlow, both felt that the site and nature of the commission suited Royal Academician Craig-Martin’s work perfectly – his sculptural works have a powerful visual impact and relationship to their surroundings. Fountain Pen 2109 echoes the circularity of the Blavatnik School building and its notable banding, designed by Herzog and DeMeuron.
By coincidence, Craig-Martin has worked closely with them on two other projects.
“I hope the building and the sculpture will sit comfortably together, I have enjoyed feeling that once again we have, in a sense, been engaged in a collaboration.”
About the Artist
Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1941. He grew up and was educated in the United States, studying Fine Art at the Yale School of Art and Architecture. He has lived and worked in Britain since 1966.
His first solo exhibition was at the Rowan Gallery, London, in 1969. He participated in the definitive exhibition of British conceptual art, The New Art, at the Hayward Gallery in 1972. His best-known works include An oak tree of 1973, in which he claimed to have changed a glass of water into an oak tree; his large-scale black and white wall drawings; and his intensely coloured paintings, installations, and commissions, including the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg, the Laban Dance Centre in London (in collaboration with Herzog and deMeuron), the DLR station at Woolwich Arsenal, and, most recently, the HDI Gerling Headquarters in Hannover.
Over the past forty-two years he has had numerous exhibitions and installations in galleries and museums across the world, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and MoMA, New York, the Kunstvereins in Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, and Hannover, the IVAM in Valencia, Kunsthaus Bregenz, and Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld. He represented Britain in the 23rd São Paulo Biennal. A retrospective of his work was presented at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, in 1989, and a second at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, in 2006, and a third at the Serpentine Gallery, London, in 2015.
His most recent solo exhibitions have been at Gagosian in London, Carling Dalenson in Stockholm, Karkov Witkin in Boston, and Reflex Amsterdam.
Craig-Martin is well known to have been an influential teacher at Goldsmiths College, London. He was a Tate Trustee from 1989 to 1999 and a Trustee of the Art Fund from 2005 to 2015, was awarded a CBE in 2000, and was elected an RA in 2006. In 2016, he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to art.
He is represented in London by Gagosian and Cristea Roberts Gallery.