Conceptual Art

Conceptual Art Definition

Conceptual art, also known simply as Conceptualism is an art movement and an art form which is focused on a concept or idea rather than the traditional aesthetic concerns. In the UK, however, the term “conceptual art” is since the 1990s also associated with all contemporary art other that painting, sculpture and the traditional media, mainly due to the work of the Young British Artists.

Marcel Duchamp as the Protagonist of Conceptual Art

The French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) is traditionally regarded as the protagonist of conceptual art although the conceptual art movement emerged nearly half of a century after his famous Fountain. In 1917, he submitted a urinal basin signed under the pseudonym “R.Mutt” for the annual Society of Independent Artists exhibition in New York. The Fountain, as the artist titled his urinary basin was rejected but this and other Duchamp’s conceptual prototypes were later recognised as important contributors to conceptual art by many leading conceptual artists including Joseph Kosuth.

Conceptual Art Movement in the 1960s and 1970s

Conceptual art movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in the united States and Europe. Some of the most notable American conceptualists from the early conceptual art movement include the previously mentioned Joseph Kosuth, Sol Le Witt, Robert Barry, Lawrence Weiner and Mel Bochner, to mention only a few. In Europe, conceptual art was introduced by the England-based group Art & Language consisting of artists such as Michael Baldwin, Terry Atkinson and Harold Hurrell as well as artists such as Daniel Buren in France and Jan Dibbets in the Netherlands.

Spread of Conceptual Movement

By the mid-1970s, conceptual art became well established in Western countries and continued all the way to the 1980s and 1990s. The 1980s, however, also saw the resurgence of the traditional art forms but influence of conceptualism continued all the way into the 1990s and early 21st century, influencing the previously mentioned Young British Artists, the Moscow Conceptualists and the United States neo-conceptualists. Some of the most notable artists of the later wave of conceptual art (also known as neo-conceptual art) include Sherrie Levine, Douglas Gordon and Barbara Kruger, to mention only a few.

Language as Art

In addition to putting the focus on the concept or idea, conceptual art is also marked by the use of language. The use of text as an art form isn’t unique to conceptualism but it were conceptual artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner and the Art & Language group who first created artworks exclusively by the use of text.