Quotes on Conceptual Art
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- Compared to other neo-avant-garde movements that emerged during the 1960s, conceptual art is conspicuous by virtue of the lack of serious discussion by art historians and critics over the last two decades. This gap in the reception is particularly ironic given the tremendous influence conceptual art has had on subsequent artistic developments, on the critical discussion surrounding the concept of postmodernism, and on the recognition and use, more generally, of various forms of theory by artists, curators, critics, and historians.
- Alberro, Alexander, and Blake Stimson, eds. Conceptual art: a critical anthology. MIT Press, 2000: preface.
- Well sure, my sculptures are floor pieces. Each one, like any area on the surface of the earth,, supports a column of air that weighs – what is it? – 14.7 pounds per square inch. So in a sense, that might represent a column. It’s not an idea, it’s a sense of something you know, a demarked place. Somehow I think I always thought of it going that way, rather than an idea of a narrowing triangle going to the center of the earth... I have nothing to do with conceptual art. I’m not interested in ideas. If I were interested in ideas, I’d be in a field where what we think in is ideas... I don’t really know what an idea is. One thing for me is that if I can frame something in language, I would never make art out of it. I make art out of things which cannot be framed in any other way. (December 1969, talking with the audience)
- Carl Andre Artists talks 1969 – 1977 p. 12.
- JEROME KLINKOWITZ: In Richard Schickel’s New York Times Magazine piece last year [“Freaked Out on Barthelme,” 16 August 1970], you were reported as saying that “The principle of collage is the central principle of all art in the twentieth century in all media.” Would you care to expand and perhaps tell me how it specifically applies to fiction?
DONALD BARTHELME: I was probably wrong, or too general. I point out however that New York City is or can be regarded as a collage, as opposed to, say, a tribal village in which all the huts (or yurts, or whatever) are the same hut, duplicated. The point of collage is that unlike things are stuck together to make, in the best case, a new reality. This new reality, in the best case, may be or imply a comment on the other reality from which it came, and may be also much else. It’s an itself, if it’s successful: Harold Rosenberg’s “anxious object”, which does not know whether it’s a work of art or a pile of junk. (Maybe I should have said that anxiety is the central principle of all art in the etc., etc.?)
KLINKOWITZ: Schickel also reported that you are “easily bored” and in fact “fear boredom”. Is this simply a personal idiosyncrasy, or do you think it reflects a larger truth about the rôle of fiction—maybe all art—in our times?
BARTHELME: I doubt that this is a condition peculiar to me. For example, I have trouble reading, in these days. I would rather drink, talk, or listen to music. The difficulties the painters are now having—the problem of keeping themselves interested—are I think instructive. Earthworks, conceptual art, etc. seem to me last resorts. Now there is a certain virtue in finding the absolutely last resort—being a Columbus of the last resort—but I don’t think I’d enjoy the rôle. I do a lot of failing and that keeps me interested.
- Donald Barthelme, Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme, “Interview with Jerome Klinkowitz”, pp. 204–205.
- The problem with me is I get so caught up in concepts and ideas. Like I just said, the ring is so cool. The satirical idea of a diamond encrusted ring above, like, slums is such a satirically cool idea – I’m not like a normal person in the sense that I have to have a story for something to be interesting. Concepts are just as interesting to me as stories are. Where, to normal people, stories are more interesting. So, that’s an example of what I mean. I can be like, “F*ck, I love this ring, I love all the visual effects related to it, I love these images and how they’re juxtaposed with one another.” And then be like, “as a director, I could have done better.” And you sort of realize that all these people prefer this element I didn’t pay as much attention to, but I paid a lot of attention to this.
- Neill Blomkamp 
- Let us consider two important factors, the two poles of the creation of art: the artist on one hand, and on the other the spectator who later becomes the posterity; to all appearances the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.
- Marcel Duchamp, 'The Creative Act', 1957, Duchamp’s lecture in Houston, April 1957, in Art News, 56. no. 4, Summer 1957, p. 28 –29.
G - L
- Great art – or good art – is when you look at it, experience it and it stays in your mind. I don't think conceptual art and traditional art are all that different. There's boring conceptual art and there's boring traditional art. Great art is if you can't stop thinking about it, then it becomes a memory.
- The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.
- The main qualifications to the lesser position of painting is that advances in art are certainly not always formal ones.
- Donald Judd (1963), as quoted in: Alexander Alberro, Blake Stimson (1999) Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. p. 193.
- The main virtue of geometric shapes is that they aren't organic, as all art otherwise is. A form that's neither geometric or organic would be a great discovery.
- Donald Judd (1967), quoted in: Alexander Alberro, Blake Stimson (1999) Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. p. 204.
- I don't know if I'm making myself clear, but if I were to accept this business of conceptual art I would have no reason to exist.
- Jannis Kounellis Quoted in Kristine Stiles & Peter Howard Selz: Theories and documents of contemporary art (1996) P.671.
- The general ignorance of the visual arts, especially their theoretical bases, deplorable even in the so-called intellectual world; the artist’s well-founded despair of ever reaching the mythical “masses” with “advanced art”; the resulting ghetto mentality predominant in the narrow and incestuous art world itself, with its resentful reliance on a very small group of dealers, curators, critics, editors, and collectors who are all too frequently and often unknowingly bound by invisible apron strings to the “real world’s” power structure—all of these factors may make it unlikely that conceptual art will be any better equipped to affect the world any differently than, or even as much as, its less ephemeral counterparts.
- Conceptual Art in the broadest sense was a kind of laboratory for innovations in the rest of the century. An unconscious international energy emerged from the raw materials of friendship, art history, interdisciplinary readings and a fervor to change the world and the ways artists related to it.
- Lucy R. Lippard, quoted in: Ken Johnsonoct. "Planter of the Seeds Of Mind-Expanding Conceptualism." in New York Times, Oct. 18, 2012
- We are still spellbound by a tradition that arranged psychological faculties hierarchically, relegating ‘sensuousness’ — that is, perception — to a lower position in comparison to higher, reflective functions of reason and understanding. The most advanced versions of ‘conceptual art’ still follow this tradition. By refusing to base themselves in sensuously perceptible distinctions between works of art and other objects, these works seek to avoid reducing art to the realm of sense perception.
- Niklas Luhmann, Eva M. Knodt (trans.) (2000) Art As a Social System Stanford University Press, p. 5.
M - R
- Conceptual Art is a sounding instrument between printed words, luminous writings, and letters scrawled in a hasty nervous instinctive calligraphy.
- Mario Merz Quoted in Kristine Stiles & Peter Howard Selz: Theories and documents of contemporary art (1996), p. 671.
- By adopting language as their exclusive medium, Weiner, Barry, Wilson, Kosuth and Art & Language were able to sweep aside the vestiges of authorial presence manifested by formal invention and the handling of materials
- Anne Rorimer, New Art in the Sixties and Seventies, Thames & Hudson, 2001. p. 76
- Not only were the minds of artists formed by the university; in the same mold were formed those of the art historians, the critics, the curators, and the collectors by whom their work was evaluated. With the rise of Conceptual art, the classroom announced its final triumph over the studio.
- Harold Rosenberg Art & Other Serious Matters, (1985) pp. 247-248, "American Drawing"
S - Z
- Roy Ascott... powerfully demonstrates the significant intersections between conceptual art and art and technology, exploding the conventional autonomy of these art historical categories.
- Edward A. Shanken in: Electronic Art and Animation Catalog, (2001), p. 12;
- After a few months in my parents' basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art. Either one of these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations.
- David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000).
- Conceptual art, more than all previous types of art, questions the fundamental nature of art. Unhappily, the question is strictly limited to the exclusive domain of fine art. There is still potential of it enabling an examination of all that surrounds art, but in reality, conceptual artists are dedicated only to exploring avant-garde aesthetic problems.
- Seth Siegelaub in Siegelaub and Michel Claura, “L’art conceptual” (1973); translated and cited in: Blake Stimson, "The promise of conceptual art." Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology (1999).
- If we are the best, it is only fair that they imitate us.
- Frank Stella In: Alexander Alberro, Blake Stimson (1999) Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. p. 227.
- I do not mind objects, but I do not care to make them.
- Language is the most formless means of expression. Its capacity to describe concepts without physical or visual references carries us into an advanced state of abstraction.
- Ian Wilson, Conceptual Art, (1984), as cited in: "Ian Wilson, plug in #47; exhibition 27/09/2008 - 08/03/2009 at Van Abbemuseum.nl, The Netherlands.
- In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work . . . all planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.
- In conceptual art the idea or the 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. This kind of art is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive; it is involved with all types of mental processes and it is purposeless. It is usually free from the dependence on the skill of the artist as a craftsman.
- Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
- All of the significant art of today stems from Conceptual art. This includes the art of installation, political, feminist and socially directed art.
- Encyclopedic article on Conceptual art at Wikipedia
- Media related to Conceptual art at Wikimedia Commons
- The dictionary definition of conceptual art at Wiktionary