Tony Cragg (British, born 1949) Constant Change 2005

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Lot 27AR TP
Tony Cragg
(British, born 1949)
Constant Change

Sold for £ 849,062 (US$ 1,170,391) inc. premium
Tony Cragg (British, born 1949)
Constant Change

incised with the artist's initials, dated 2005 and stamped with the foundry mark Kayser & Kippel Düsseldorf
stainless steel

470 by 200 by 165 cm.
185 1/16 by 78 3/4 by 64 15/16 in.


  • Provenance
    Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2005

    Majestic and monumental, Constant Change from 2005 is an extraordinary sculpture that shimmers and ripples in ribbons of stainless steel, hanging poised in space and appearing to defy laws of gravity and matter. The complexity of the structure is striking and supremely rare in his practice with two columns connected by a delicate parabola. It is the culmination of many years of exploration into the plastic arts and his pioneering use of material. "There is this idea that sculpture is static, or maybe even dead, but I feel absolutely contrary to that," said Cragg in a 2007 interview. "I'm not a religious person—I'm an absolute materialist—and for me material is exciting and ultimately sublime. When I'm involved in making sculpture, I'm looking for a system of belief or ethics in the material. I want that material to have a dynamic, to push and move and grow," (the artist in: Robert Ayers, 'The AI Interview: Tony Cragg.', Art Info, 10 May 2007, online source).

    The brilliant shine of the work's surface opens up new possibilities of meaning, distorting the reflection of the world around the sculpture and bringing the luscious contours of the work's 'skin' to life. The seemingly random voluptuousness of the composition is in fact based on the artist's choice of material and is based on the architectural qualities of stainless steel and the mathematical relation between form and structure. His sensitivity to different materials is and has been the starting point for his work. Different materials give different emotional experiences, both for the artist and for the viewer. Tony Cragg himself has noted that the word material derives from the Latin word mater, meaning mother. Like a mother, the material gives birth to the thought; the different properties of a material give rise to the idea, which produces the form.

    His later works known as Rational Beings, of which the present lot is perhaps the crowning example, develop this interest into a series of articulated columns, no longer concerned with the organic, but with the dynamic. In these works, profiles emerge and disappear from their surfaces and thereby push towards a new abstracted understanding of the human, or meta-human figure. In the later part of his career he has been confronting notions of compression and expansion in his works where recognisable forms such as facial profiles, although distorted, become apparent. These works have an almost futuristic element to them, reminiscent of technology synonymous with 3D printing or engineering more familiar at NASA.

    The reflections within the column's surface introduce an important dialogue between the sculpture and the space it occupies. Commissioned for the present owner, Constant Change is not complete until it is installed, a key part of its composition being the images and changing light reflected on its smooth surface. While many of Cragg's contemporaries rely on the same reflective qualities for their own sculptures, the alternating recessions and projections of Cragg's globular, organic shapes create an even more varied surface that intentionally distorts its surroundings. While an industrial material, the steel takes on an almost liquefied trait that reads more like rippled water or flowing mercury than a static object or a conventional bronze.

    Sir Tony Cragg has been one of the world's foremost sculptors for more than three decades, bursting to prominence in 1988, the year in which he won both the Turner Prize and was selected to represent the UK at the Venice Biennale. Not only has his work helped to define the plastic arts in museums and within the art market for the past quarter century, his profound engagement with sculpture has served to influence subsequent generations of artists as a result of his roles as Professor at Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, France (1999-2009) and Professor at Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf, Germany (2009 to present). He has shown in many of the world's most prestigious and important museums and his works are in many of the world's major collections including the Tate London, MoMA New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and many more. Constant Change is arguably the most important work by the artist ever to appear at auction, certainly the largest and most dramatic, and it shows this giant of sculpture, this pioneer, at the height of his significant powers.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the height of this work is 470 cm. (185 1/16 in.) and not as stated in the printed catalogue.
Tony Cragg (British, born 1949) Constant Change 2005
Tony Cragg (British, born 1949) Constant Change 2005
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