Conceptual Art

Discover how Conceptual artists used language, performance, and instructions to fuel creativity, and sought alternatives to institutional settings.


Language and Art

Explore the role words played in Conceptual art’s emphasis on ideas over visual forms.


Outside the Museum

Discover the work of two artists who thought beyond the confines of a museum.


In the 1960s, artists in the United States, Europe, and Latin America began experimenting with art that emphasized ideas over a physical product. In 1967, artist Sol LeWitt gave this new art a name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.” He wrote, “The idea itself, even if it is not made visual, is as much of a work of art as any finished product.” Conceptual artists used their work to question the notion of what art is, and often rejected museums and galleries as defining authorities. The work of Conceptual artists helped to put photographs, musical scores, architectural drawings, and performance art on an equal footing with painting and sculpture.

The science, art, or profession of designing and constructing buildings, bridges, and other large structures.

An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.

A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A work of art made with a pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements, often consisting of lines and marks (noun); the act of producing a picture with pencil, pen, crayon, charcoal, or other implements (verb, gerund).

A term that emerged in the 1960s to describe a diverse range of live presentations by artists, including actions, movements, gestures, and choreography. Performance art is often preceded by, includes, or is later represented through various forms of video, photography, objects, written documentation, or oral and physical transmission.

Art that emerged in the late 1960s, emphasizing ideas and theoretical practices rather than the creation of visual forms. In 1967, the artist Sol LeWitt gave the new genre its name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in which he wrote, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product.” Conceptual artists used their work to question the notion of what art is, and to critique the underlying ideological structures of artistic production, distribution, and display.

Related Artists: John Baldessari, after Daniel Buren, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Richard Serra