Richard Deacon was born in Bangor in Wales, educated at Plymouth College and then studied at the Somerset College of Art in Taunton, St Martin's School of Art in London and the Royal College of Art, also in London. He left the Royal College in 1977, and went on to study part time at the Chelsea School of Art. Deacon's first one man show came in 1978 in Brixton.
Deacon's work is abstract, but often alludes to anatomical functions. His works are often constructed from everyday materials such as laminated plywood, and he calls himself a "fabricator" rather than a "sculptor". His early pieces are typically made up of sleek curved forms, with later works sometimes more bulky.
Deacon's body of work includes small-scale works suitable for showing in art galleries, as well as much larger pieces shown in sculpture gardens and objects made for specific events, such as dance performances.
Deacon won the Turner Prize in 1987 (nominated for his touring show For Those Who Have Eyes) having previously been nominated in 1984.
Deacon was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1999 New Year Honours List. In 2007 he represented Wales at the Venice Biennale. He was one of the five artists shortlisted for the Angel of the South project in January 2008.