Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941 and educated in the United States, studying fine art at Yale University. He returned to Europe in the mid-1960s, becoming one of the key figures in the first generation of British conceptual artists. He taught at Goldsmith's College School of Art from 1974–88 and 1994–2000, where he was a powerful influence on a generation of his students who became known as the Young British Artists, including Gary Hume, Sarah Lucas, and Damien Hirst.
From his early box-like constructions of the late 60’s he moved increasingly to the use of ordinary household objects, playing against the logic of his sources. In 1974, he exhibited his iconic piece “An Oak Tree”, consisting of a glass of water standing on a shelf high on the gallery wall. In the accompanying text, he asked himself questions to assert that, despite appearances, he had changed the glass of water into an oak tree. In the late 70’s he began to make line drawings of ordinary objects, creating over the years an ever-expanding vocabulary of images which form the foundation of his work to this day. Craig-Martin continued working in various mediums, always maintaining an elegant restraint and conceptual clarity. During the 1990s the focus of his work shifted decisively to painting, with the same range of boldly outlined motifs and luridly vivid color schemes in unexpected combinations applied both to works on canvas, and to increasingly complex installations of wall paintings.
Craig-Martin's work is in many public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Tate Gallery, London, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. He has had solo exhibitions at institutions across the world including Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2006) and most recently Krefeld Museum, Germany (2013). A retrospective of his work was presented at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1989) and a second at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2006–07). Permanent large-scale installations can be seen at the DLR Station Woolwich Arsenal, the European Investment Bank, Luxembourg, and the Laban Dance Centre, Greenwich, a collaboration with architects Herzog and DeMeuron. He was an Artist Trustee of Tate from 1989-99, received a CBE in 2001, and was elected to the Royal Academy in 2006. Craig-Martin had a solo exhibition in 2012. He lives and works in London.