Conceptual Art is a type of modern art based on ideas or concepts and not the actual or physical representation of them. Also referred to as Conceptualism, this rather controversial art form gives precedence over the aesthetic aspect of the art rather than its material depiction. Conceptual Art incorporates a very huge spectrum, which could include primeval painting, postmodern poetry, music, among many others.1
All art, (after Duchamp) is conceptual (in nature) because art only exists conceptually. In Conceptual Art, the idea of a work matters more than its physical representation. Dating from the 1960’s, Conceptual Art has its roots in the early 20th century European arts movement called Dada, as well as in the writings on language and meaning by mid-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Conceptual Art marked a major turning point in late 20th-century art. When it emerged in the mid 1960s, it has challenged one’s precepts not only about art, but also about politics, society, and the media. As an international art movement, Conceptual Art covered not only Western Europe and North America. It also encompassed South America, Russia, Eastern Europe, Japan, and China. Its legacy spanned globally, starting from a small local participatory project to a large-scale installation at major museums and biennales.
Many of the great influences of Conceptual Art are American modern artists whose views on the subject were closely followed. The concept was first discussed by composer and theorist Henry Flynt in his essay bearing the title “Conceptual Art” which was published in 1963. Sol Lewitt followed suit, releasing a very influential work entitled “Sentences on Conceptual Art”. Another top influencer of the Conceptual Art movement is Marcel Duchamp, a 20th century French artist who successfully broke its primacy.2
Being a contemporary or modern art form, the birth of Conceptual Art didn’t go by without any controversies. Conceptual artists who were nominated for the Turner Prize became a subject of ridicule and media backlash. A group of artists who called themselves as the ‘Stuckist’ publicly proclaimed their position against conceptual art, tagging it as boring and unremarkable. Notable artists in the likes of Ivan Massow and Kim Howells also announced their distaste for this particular modern art concept.3
One of the famous examples of Conceptual Arts is ‘Portrait of Iris Clert’ by Robert Rauschenberg, which is a telegram sent to the Galerie Iris Clert. Another one is ‘Fountain’ by Marcel Duchamp, which is a ready-made urinal. ‘Give If You Can, Take if You Have To’ by Jacek Tylicki is also a well-celebrated conceptual art form. It is a stone sculpture built on Palolem Island, India in 2008.
Aside from the modern artists listed above, the famous names in Conceptual Art are Isidore Isou, Yves Klein, Wolf Vostell, Piero Manzoni, Barrie Bates aka Billy Apple, Christo, George Brecht, Henry Flynts, and Yoko Ono, among others.