Michael Craig-Martin, conceptual artist and former teacher of the YBAs (from Hirst and Lucas to Opie and Landy), has made the depiction of the ordinary his specialisation – and in so doing has made it extraordinary. His hyper-real, line-drawn renderings of everyday objects set in the midst of vivid flat fields of colour are some of the contemporary art world’s most recognisable images. The opening of a new exhibition is therefore something of an event – particularly when it is accompanied by a sister show in which Craig-Martin brings together iconic 20th- and 21st-century prints drawn from both his personal collection and his wish list.
The first show, Michael Craig-Martin, Objects of our Time, which opens at the Alan Cristea Gallery space at 34 Cork Street on Friday March 28 (and runs until Friday May 2), focuses on the artist’s latest body of work. There are editions in several media, from etchings to a series of six LED light-boxes with images digitally printed on acrylic. But it’s the title work that is the highlight of the show. Objects of Our Time is a series of 12 screen prints of some of the quotidian things that define the modern world (£6,000 for the set of 12, in editions of 50). Credit cards (Credit Card, 2014, first picture), wheelie suitcases, electric toothbrushes, disposable coffee cups (Takeaway Coffee, 2014, second picture) and bins (Recycling Bins, 2014, third picture) are all crisply defined, vividly coloured and presented on monochrome grounds.
The accompanying show, Master Prints Selected by Michael Craig-Martin, which opens simultaneously at the Gallery’s 31 Cork Street address, sees the artist as curator. This is a collection of work he admires – some of which he owns, such as Ellsworth Kelly’s Blue/Yellow/Red, 1990 (£7,800, edition of 80) and Howard Hodgkin’s Julian and Alexis, 1977 (£7,200, edition of 30, fourth picture), and some, such as Matisse’s Nadia en Profil 1948 aquatint (£24,000, edition of 25), that he would simply love to add to his collection. It’s not only a roll call of artistic giants, but also a fascinating insight into Craig-Martin’s influences.