Neo-conceptual art

Posted: April 15, 2012 in Art, Preformance

John LeKayUntitled, 1991, ladder and wheelchair

Neo-conceptual art describes art practices in the 1980s and particularly 1990s to date that derive from the conceptual artmovement of the 1960s and 1970s. These subsequent initiatives have included the Moscow Conceptualists, United States neo-conceptualists such as Sherrie Levine and the Young British Artists, notably Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin in the United Kingdom, where there is also a Stuckism counter-movement and criticism from the 1970s conceptual art group Art and Language.




Many of the concerns of the “conceptual art” movement proper have been taken up by many contemporary artists since the initial wave of conceptual artists. While many of these artists may not term themselves “conceptual artists”, ideas such as anti-commodification, social and/or political critique, digital art, and ideas/information as medium continue to be aspects of contemporary art, especially among artists working with computer artinstallation artperformance and electronic art. Many critics and artists may speak of conceptual aspects of a given artist or art work, reflecting the enduring influence that many of the original conceptual artists have had on the art world.

The Moscow Conceptualists, in the 1970s and 80s, attempted to subvert socialist ideology using the strategies of conceptual art andappropriation art. The central figures were Ilya Kabakov and Komar and Melamid. The group also included Eric Bulatov and Viktor Pivovarov.

Notable U.S neo-conceptual artists of the 1980s include Jenny HolzerRichard PrinceLouise LawlerMark LombardiBarbara Kruger, and expatriate Briton, John LeKay who exhibited with Damien Hirst.[1]

The Young British Artists (YBAs), led by Damien Hirst, came to prominence in the 1990s and their work was described at the time as neo-conceptual[2], even though it relies very heavily on the art object to make its impact. The term is used in relation to them on the basis that the object is not the artwork, or is often a found object, which has not needed artistic skill in its production. Tracey Emin is seen as a leading YBA and a neo-conceptualist, even though she has denied that she is and has emphasised personal emotional expression. Charles Harrison, a member of the conceptual art group Art and Language in the 1970s, criticizes the neo-conceptual art of the 1990s as conceptual art “without threat or awkwardness”[3] and a “vacant” prospect.[4]

Other notable artists associated with neo-conceptualism in the UK include Martin CreedLiam GillickBethan HuwsSimon PattersonSimon Starling and Douglas Gordon.

[edit]Notable events

1991: Charles Saatchi funds Damien Hirst and the next year in the Saatchi Gallery exhibits his The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a shark in formaldehyde in a vitrine.

1993: Vanessa Beecroft holds her first performance in Milan, Italy, using models to act as a second audience to the display of her diary of food.

1999: Tracey Emin is nominated for the Turner Prize. Part of her exhibit is My Bed, her dishevelled bed, surrounded by detritus such as condoms, blood-stained knickers, bottles and her bedroom slippers.

2001: Martin Creed wins the Turner Prize for The Lights Going On and Off, an empty room where the lights go on and off.[5]

2005: Simon Starling wins the Turner Prize for Shedboatshed, a wooden shed which he had turned into a boat, floated down the Rhine and turned back into a shed again.[6]

[edit]Controversy in the UK

In Britain, the rise to prominence of the Young British Artists (YBAs) after the 1988 Freeze show, curated by Damien Hirst, and subsequent promotion of the group by theSaatchi Gallery during the 1990s, generated a media backlash, where the phrases “conceptual art” and “neo-conceptual” came to be terms of derision applied to muchcontemporary art. This was amplified by the Turner Prize whose more extreme nominees (most notably Hirst and Emin) caused a controversy annually.[7]

Stuckists’ “Death of Conceptual Art” coffin demonstration, 2002

The Stuckist group of artists, founded in 1999, proclaimed themselves “pro-contemporary figurative painting with ideas and anti-conceptual art, mainly because of its lack of concepts.” They also called it pretentious, “unremarkable and boring” and on July 25, 2002 deposited a coffin outside the White Cube gallery, marked “The Death of Conceptual Art”.[8][9] They staged yearly demonstrations outside the Turner Prize.

In 2002, Ivan Massow, the Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts branded conceptual art “pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat” and in “danger of disappearing up its own arse … led by cultural tsars such as the Tate‘s Sir Nicholas Serota.[10]Massow was consequently forced to resign. At the end of the year, the Culture Minister, Kim Howells (an art school graduate) denounced the Turner Prize as “cold, mechanical, conceptual bullshit”.[11]

In October 2004 the Saatchi Gallery told the media that “painting continues to be the most relevant and vital way that artists choose to communicate.”[12] Following this Charles Saatchi began to sell prominent works from his YBA collection.

[edit]Notes and references

  1. ^ Alberge, Dalya. “My old friend Damien stole my skull idea”The Times, 27 June 2007. Retrieved 10 December 2007.
  2. ^ Scott Lash and Celia Lury, Global Culture Industries: The Mediation of Things, Polity, 2007, p211. ISBN 0745624839
  3. ^ Charles Harrison, Essays on Art & Language, MIT Press, 2001, p29. ISBN 0262582414
  4. ^ Charles Harrison, Essays on Art & Language, MIT Press, 2001, p241. ISBN 0262582414
  5. ^ BBC Online
  6. ^ The Times
  7. ^ Turner prize history: Conceptual art Tate gallery Accessed August 8, 2006
  8. ^ “White Cube Demo 2002”, Retrieved 19 April 2008.
  9. ^ Cripps, Charlotte. “Visual arts: Saying knickers to Sir NicholasThe Independent, 7 September 2004. Retrieved from, 7 April 2008.
  10. ^ The Guardian
  11. ^ The Daily Telegraph
  12. ^ Reynolds, Nigel 2004 “Saatchi’s latest shock for the art world is – painting” The Daily Telegraph 10 February 2004. Accessed April 15, 2006

[edit]See also


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