The term “conceptual art” refers to art that is based on ideas. The genre employs images and objects to elicit thought from the audience, specifically about what art is and what it means. It first appeared in the 1960s as a challenge to viewers about what they thought belonged in the realm of art. Concept art emphasizes the artist’s role as a thinker rather than an artist who creates art objects. It asks if anything can be art, or at least become art, simply existing and being arranged in such a way that the viewer is forced to consider its meaning.
The conceptual art movement is thought to have peaked between the middle of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s. It was an attempt to broaden the definition of art beyond the confines of traditional notions of what art should be. It rejected the “consumer” idea that art must be beautiful or aesthetically pleasing to the viewer in some way.
The true goal of art, according to conceptual art theory, is to make the viewer think, not to please the senses. Any work of art that does not provoke thought in the viewer is considered “redundant.” This theory begs the question of what constitutes “art.”
Installation art, performance art, and conceptual film and photography are all thought to have sprung from the conceptual art framework. Traditional painting and sculpture are rejected concept art because they are based on aesthetic principles rather than ideas. The work becomes about the artist’s skill rather than challenging the viewer’s thinking.
Critics of conceptual art wonder if any piece of art that claims to be simply about an idea can ever fully engage a viewer. Furthermore, if everything has the potential to be art, the distinction between art and non-art is blurred. A step in the creative process is missed concept artists. It is more accurate to say that anything can be turned into a work of art. Something becomes art because of the transformative power of the artistic process.
To these criticisms, concept artists respond arguing that the knowledge gained during the creation of the object is more important than the object itself. The meaning of the object is more important than the object itself. The viewer’s attention should be drawn to the meaning rather than the imagery, and to the ideas rather than the artist’s compositional skills.
Other critics argue that an idea of art that is aesthetically powerful, carefully composed, and causes the viewer to consider important ideas is not inherently contradictory. In fact, these elements can be found in a lot of great art. The goal of conceptual art is to examine the nature of art rather than to create it. This type of analysis is still regarded as a significant source of inspiration in the art world.