Conceptual Art

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Conceptual Art
The Kiss conceptual artwork by Alberto Ruggieri

The Kiss

Known Names Concept art
Influencers George Brecht

(Top Image: “Bright Idea Concept” by Creativa)

The Conceptual Art movement of the 1960s and 1970s strove to strip art of commercialism. The basis of this movement was that the concept behind the art was paramount, even transcending the art itself.

Conceptual Art

The Conceptual Art movement started in the early 1900s, but it didn’t gain prominence until the 1960s. The term Conceptual Art was first used by Henry Flynt in a Fluxus publication in 1961, but the strict definition refers to work that was done between 1966 and 1972. The basis of the art movement is that the idea behind a work of art is more important than the physical piece, and considering the deeper meaning of the art reveals a statement about society. Artists of the movement wanted to remove commercialism from the art world. The earliest Conceptual Art was based on the Dada movement and the artwork of Marcel Duchamp, the father of Dadaism. The movement began in Western Europe and North America and spread to other parts of the world, becoming a turning point for art in the twentieth century. Described by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as the type of art people either love or hate, Conceptual Art is disturbing and offensive to some. Others consider it thought provoking and thrilling. Conceptual Art tends to be controversial, evoking intense emotions. Conceptual artists purposely eschewed any conventionality of the art world by making the concept of their art transcend the art itself. They were trying to pry art away from Modernism by drawing from Abstract Expressionism, Dadaism, Suprematism, Surrealism, and the Fluxus Group. The New York Cultural Center held the first exhibit of the movement in 1970. It was titled Conceptual Art and Conceptual Artists. Many of the pieces from the Conceptual Art movement were text based, and much of the art included videos, instructions, photographs, and maps. However, the point of the movement was to take the attention away from the medium used, the finished work, and the artist in order to make the work’s concept the focal point. Digital, installation, and performance artists as well as musicians have taken inspiration from the Conceptual movement. George Brecht, who belonged to the Fluxus, started his career as a Dadaist and was drawn toward Conceptualism. He performed his Conceptual Art music piece entitled Incidental Music in 1961. The same year, he produced Chair Events, which was music scores placed in seats. Brecht used chairs in many of his works, such as Chair with Fur Rug, 1966. Joseph Kosuth, head of the Art and Language group and editor of the group’s publication, had his own take on chairs. His piece entitled One and Three Chairs, 1965, was a life-sized black-and-white photograph of a wooden chair next to an actual wooden chair. Kosuth was especially interested in the roles of meaning and language in art. Keith Haring got his inspiration from cartoons, comic strips, and graffiti. He took his art to the streets, covering advertisements he found with marker and chalk drawings. Carmine Street Mural, 1987, is a permanent mural by Haring at the City of New York Parks and Recreation public pool. His Subway Drawing is a life-sized cartoon of himself in the subway. Naturally, that work can be found in the New York subway.


  • Blue Monochrome, Yves Klein, 1961
  • Line 1000 Meters Long, Piero Manzoni, 1961
  • Given 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas, Marcel Duchamp, 1966
  • Incomplete Cubes, Sol LeWitt, begun in 1974
  • One and Three Chairs, Joseph Kosuth, 1965

Fun Facts

  • Marcel Duchamp’s last work, Given, was created in secrecy and took twenty years, from 1946 to 1966, to complete.

Related Articles

  • Jan Dibbets
  • Robert Barry
  • John Baldessari
  • Joseph Beuys
  • Yves Klein


Some Examples of Conceptual Art

Health And Fitness Concept artwork by Rostudio

Health And Fitness Concept

Giraffes In Friendship Or Love Concept Image artwork by Melpomeme

Giraffes In Friendship Or Love Concept Image

War of the Worlds artwork by Stocktrek Images

War of the Worlds


Tall Trees digital art, Tilden Park photos to digital art