Dates: 1966-1980

Origin: International

Key Artists: Joseph Kosuth, John Baldessari

a term which emerged in the 1960s to describe art designed to draw attention to the intellectual processes involved in its construction, and implicitly to question the critical judgements made of it. Works such as Marcel Duchamp’s Bottle Rack (1914; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou) have been cited as precedents for Conceptual art. An important difference is that the creators of such ‘ready-mades’ were making conventional aesthetic and formal decisions in their choice of objects; displaced from its usual surroundings, Bottle Rack is revealed as a mysterious, sculpturally enthralling object. Conceptual art, however, is characterized by a suppression of formal peculiarities, denying the possibility of interest in any physical aspect of the work itself, as in Joint (1968, various locations) by Carl André (1935– ), a photograph of 183 units of baled hay. Other exponents of Conceptual art include Sol Lewitt, Bruce Nauman (1941– ), Dennis Oppenheim (1938– ), Keith Arnatt (1930– ), and Michael Craig-Martin (1941– ).

While it is concerned with the negation of formal interest in a work, the forms Conceptual art has taken have been very diverse. Texts, maps, diagrams, X-rays, audiocassettes, and videotape have all been used as communicative media. This diversity stems from the importance attached by Conceptual artists to such things as photographs and working notes. Regarded as relatively incidental and ephemeral in relation to more conventional kinds of art production, every stage in the creation and dissemination of a piece of Conceptual art is equally important in suggesting the intellectual and communicative processes of which it is a part.

Parfitt, Oliver. “Conceptual art.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>

Joseph Kosuth

Comments are closed.