Gildors Art Corner

The artist of the month:

Tony Cragg: PLEASE TOUCH!

22.02. – 26.05.2024 - Kunstpalast Düsseldorf

Ever since I saw the film CAMILLE CLAUDEL in 1988 at the latest, I have always wanted to touch, stroke and feel the sculptures in museums. Which, as you know, is forbidden for good reasons. But not at the Kunstpalast Düsseldorf. TONY CRAGG's exhibition PLEASE TOUCH explicitly invites visitors to touch his sculptures. A really great experience! The tactile experience of the different materials alone - steel, bronze, cast iron, fibreglass, wood, plastic or clay - is worth the visit. Many sculptures can also be made to sound - a musical experience is added to the tactile and visual experience. Yes, and CRAGG's varied, organic shapes...

When your skin lies on shiny stainless steel, the moist palm of your hand touches "Justine", her surface becomes warm and supple under your hand, then you feel her as a whole, not only her curves, her outer, perfectly shaped shell, but also her volume, her inner strength.

"Stone Head" (2019) is made of stone. Stone is cold and becomes warm to the touch. In contrast to bronze. Bronze remains cold and in Cragg's work has a finely crafted, almost silky surface - as in "Migrant" from 2015 - or it pricks: like the protruding, filigree arms and legs of the sculpture "Wave" from 2022 - an impressive work that makes us think of man-made natural disasters. Steel often has a rough surface - "Thicket" from 2016, for example. Fibreglass is light and somehow - dead. Wood is more lively, more pleasing, more flattering to the touch; the massive sculpture "Group", 2012, is something you would like to hug. "Great!", "Ah!", "Crazy!", you can hear people marvelling in the museum halls.

The sculptures that are reminiscent of Russian matryoshka dolls are also particularly appealing: a tree whose branches are hands, from which smaller hand branches branch off to end in hand leaves or his work "Wave", which consists of lots of little human bodies. And the sculpture formed from thousands of parlour game dice is highly original. The last exhibition room is also very exciting: here, visitors will find Tony Cragg's reconstructed studio - the place where his artistic process and working methods can be understood.

"I can't remember ever seeing so many happy people in an exhibition before," says Felix Krämer, who curated the exhibition together with the Wuppertal-based artist. Incidentally, there is an entire sculpture park in Wuppertal with works by TONY CRAGG - definitely worth a visit and there are also a whole series of CRAGG's sculptures, some of them huge, in the Düsseldorf cityscape. TONY CRAGG's work is closely linked to the city of Düsseldorf: He taught at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1979 and became a professor in 1988. He was Vice-Rector and, from 2009 to 2013, Rector of the Art Academy. At the beginning of February 2015, the artist, who was born in 1949, was made an honorary member of the Kunstakademie.

Photos and text: Peter Winz