What Is Conceptual Art?

Art comes in many guises and is something that is enjoyed by millions, but it’s not all about the aesthetics of a piece. Of course, having something that is beautiful to look at is always a must for art lovers, but artists have often put forward their own concepts and ideas that the piece enforce before the aesthetics.

The Origins Of Conceptual Art

An example of conceptual art was first brought to the table by French artist, Marcel Duchamp. His 1917 piece, ‘Fountain,’ was nothing more than a black-and-white picture of a urinal basin bearing the signature ‘R. Mutt,’ Duchamp’s pseudonym. At first glance, it could be argued that there is nothing artistic about the piece whatsoever, but it’s not just the aesthetics to consider in relation to the piece.

It is thought that the original submission of a urinal basin was due to the fact that a group of outsider artists known as the American Society of Independent Artists was arranging an exhibition in 1917, and any art submitted with a $6.00 fee would be displayed.

Duchamp bought the urinal, turned it 90 degrees and submitted it using his pseudonym. Despite the claim that any artist paying the $6.00 would see their art feature, Duchamp’s entry was hastily rejected following an emergency meeting.

It was only a month later when a small magazine known as ‘The Blind Man’ went on to defend Duchamp’s work. The magazine pointed out that although Duchamp had not created the urinal himself, he had showcased a piece of art that instil different thoughts about that particular object, and thus conceptual art was born.

Art that Sends a Message

As conceptual art enforces an idea or message, it wasn’t just limited to images and photographs. Although language had been something of a concern among the first wave of conceptual artists, the 1960s would see artists such as Laurence Weiner and Edward Rushca embrace the linguistic side of conceptual art.

Laurence Weiner would create ‘Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole.’ The piece would see the text in white capital letters upon a brick wall. Edward Ruscha’s works would see letters created in such a way that they appeared dribbled or sprayed onto a monochromatic surface. Ruscha would then go on to include full phrases into his works, often created using pastel against a field of color.

Conceptual art can mean different things to different people. An artist will create a piece that is thought-provoking to them, but just like a piece of music, its interpretation can translate to different things depending on the viewer. While art like this can be easily dismissed, it can often force people to take a deeper look at the art world and what it has to offer.

Art can often be misunderstood, and as such, some of the pieces embrace such misconceptions and create them as works of art that are not only a break from the norm but are inviting people to draw their own conclusions as to what message the piece is attempting to portray.

Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have huge respect for all the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and enjoy the occasional whiskey or two...

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