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Aspen Art Museum


Conceptual Art


This book marks a new, original, and authoritative re-examination of a major turning point in late twentieth-century art. Since the mid-1960s Conceptual art—an art that consists of ideas, written down, enacted, or simply carried in your head—has directly challenged the very notion that a work of art is by definition an object of visual pleasure. Conceptual art is, first and foremost, an art of questions. As this book demonstrates, Conceptual art continues today to raise fundamental questions not only about the definition of art itself but also about politics, the media, and society. Conceptual art, since its zenith from 1966 to 1972, has influenced not only all subsequent art, but made a major contribution to the history of ideas. It, in turn, drew much of its inspiration from the writings of thinkers ranging from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein to the playwright Samuel Beckett. For the first time, excerpts from these key influential writings are included alongside the major original texts by artists, critics, curators, and art historians. An international movement, Conceptual art encompasses not only North America and Western Europe, but also South America, Eastern Europe, Russia, China, and Japan. Its legacy is global, ranging from small local participatory projects to large-scale installations at major museums and biennials. Survey philosopher and art historian Peter Osborne traces Conceptual art’s origins in Europe, Japan, and the USA, its development throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and its legacy in contemporary art. The book provides an extensive color plate section with extended captions for every artwork. Introducing the foundations with “Pre-history: 1950-1960,” chapters are then divided usefully into six distinctive types of Conceptual art: Instruction, Performance, Documentation; Process, System, Series; Word and Sign; Appropriation, Intervention, Everyday; Politics and Ideology; Institutional Critique; concluding with Afterwards. Documents mirror the works section by chapter, including historical texts by philosophers and writers who crucially influenced the movement, alongside key original texts by artists, critics, and art historians.