Conceptual art. Art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Many of the works, sometimes called installations, of the artist Sol LeWitt may be constructed by anyone simply by following a set of written instructions.This method was fundamental to LeWitt's definition of Conceptual art, one of the first to appear in print:
|“||In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.||”|
Tony Godfrey, author of "Conceptual Art" (1998), asserts that conceptual art questions the nature of art,a notion that Joseph Kosuth elevated to a definition of art itself in his seminal, early manifesto of conceptual art, "Art after Philosophy" (1969). The notion that art should examine its own nature was already a potent aspect of (the influential art critic)Clement Greenberg's vision of Modern art during the 1950s. With the emergence of an exclusively language-based art in the 1960s, however, conceptual artists such asJoseph Kosuth,Lawrence Weinerand the EnglishArt & Languagegroup began a far more radical interrogation of art than was previously possible (seebelow). One of the first and most important things they questioned was the common assumption that the role of the artist was to create special kinds of material objects.
Through its association with theYoung British Artistsand theTurner Prizeduring the 1990s, in popular usage, particularly in theUK, "conceptual art" came to denote allcontemporary artthat does not practise the traditional skills ofpaintingandsculpture.It could be said that one of the reasons why the term "conceptual art" has come to be associated with various contemporary practices far removed from its original aims and forms lies in the problem of defining the term itself. As the artistMel Bochnersuggested as early as 1970, in explaining why he does not like the epithet "conceptual", it is not always entirely clear what "concept" refers to, and it runs the risk of being confused with "intention." Thus, in describing or defining a work of art as conceptual it is important not to confuse what is referred to as "conceptual" with an artist's "intention.