Richard Deacon was born in Bangor, Wales. His father was a pilot in the Royal Air Force and as such, his family moved every two years or so, depending on where his father was stationed. These many successive travels finally took them to Sri Lanka from 1955 to 1958. Deacon has vivid memories of 3rd century Buddhas sculpted directly into Polonnaruwa’s cliffs. As a child he was also intrigued by Iron Age forts and Dartmoor’s rocks in the Plymouth region.
Deacon attended Somerset College of Art in Taunton where he studied under Ian Breakwell and Rose Finn Kelcey as well as conceptual artist John Hilliard.
Deacon was admitted to the renowned Saint Martins College of Art where he studied for 3 years. During his time there he developed a strong interest in performance. Stuff Box Object is thus an experimental piece which involved Deacon climbing into a box and bolting himself inside, a prisoner of its interior space. Afterwards he applied plaster and cement to the box’s exterior which he then removed using hammer and chisel, allowing him to subtly glide between the worlds of performance and sculpture, directly confronting the material. After completing his studies at Saint Martins he and several colleagues founded Manydeed with a desire to continue working together. They rented out a large loft which became a collective workshop.
Deacon studied at the prestigious royal College of Art (RCA) where he presented his first exhibition in 1976. Despite his diploma from Saint Martins, Deacon admitted he “still didn’t know what he wanted to do” at this point in his career. He did acknowledge that one of his objectives was to “make an ongoing commitment to material” on his application form for the RCA. At this time he met ceramic artist Jacqueline Poncelet whom he married in 1977. They had two children, Alexis (born in 1978) and Alice (born in 1982).
First show at RCA.
Deacon wrote an essay on Poussin’s painting Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake. He settled in Brixton, setting up his workshop where he remains to this day. He begins teaching at the Central School of Art.
Exhibits his work in the gallery-workshop in Brixton.
The family moved to the United States for one year thanks to his wife’s study grant. They lived in New York for 6 months, then began to travel across the United States from East to West. This is when Deacon produced a series of large format drawings entitled It’s Orpheus when they’re singing inspired by his reading of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus.
He began work on a series of sculptures called Art for Other People.
Richard Deacon’s career takes off internationally, the result of numerous commissions for public spaces:
For Those Who Have Ears (commissioned by the Welsh Sculpture Trust, the work later became part of the Tate Gallery collection in London)
Like a Bird (commissioned by the Meyseyside Development Corporation for the International Garden Festival of Liverpool)
Blind, Deaf And Dumb, commissioned by the Serpentine Gallery for an exhibition, the work then became part of the Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller in Otterlo, Netherlands)
Host (commissioned by the Equitable Plaza in Chicago)
Once Upon A Time (commissioned by the Metropolitan District Council of Gateshead (Between The Eyes (commissioned by Yonge Square International Plaza of Toronto), Moor (a commission for “Four cities: New York for different places”, installed in Plymouth)
Let’s Not Be Stupid (commissioned by the University of Warwick, Coventry), Nobody Here But Us (for the ASB Bank Centre, Auckland)
Between Fact And Fiction for the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art, Villeneuve d’Ascq. This Is Not A Story, commissioned by the City of Waiblingen, Germany. Building from the inside, Krefeld, Germany.
Zeitweise, Now and Then (commissioned by Vienna for Mexicoplatz)
One Is Asleep, One Is Awake, Tokyo, International Forum
No Stone Unturned, Liestat, Switzerland
Meanwhile, Deacon was awarded the Turner Prize. Organized by the Tate Britain, this prestigious prize is awarded annually in December in recognition of a contemporary British artist’s work.
Deacon received the Robert Jakobsen Prize, from the Würth Museum, Kunzelsau, Germany.
Named Knight of the Arts and Letters
Elected as a member of the Royal Academy
Becomes Doctor of Letters at the University of Leicester
Deacon represented Wales at the Venice Biennale.