Conceptual Art


Regardless of the chosen prompt, your essay will need to follow these protocols:

1. Attributing your sources (citations)

• Although you are not required to use Chicago Notes and Bibliography style, you are welcome to
do so (good practice).

• Do not use parenthetical in-text citations. While this style is often the first taught and can be
easiest to master, it is the least useful for artists who are writing as well as distracting and
cumbersome for the reader.

• If you do not choose to use Chicago Notes and Bibliography style, you will need to attribute your
source as if writing journalistically (similar to an essay published in magazine) where author and
publication info is journalistically written into the structure of the sentence.

• For more information about journalistic writing attribution, refer to the example
found in the "How are my writing assignments graded?" handout on iCollege in the Need Writing
Help? module.

2. Do not include the prompt with your essay (or do so only with narrative intention) and attempt to
create a self-sufficient piece of writing. For this assignment in particular, it should be clear to the reader which
prompt you have chosen because you have thoughtfully introduced the subject within the body of the writing.

3. The style of the writing is informal, meaning you may use “I” language.

4. Structure your response so that any citizen interested in the arts would understand your text. Your
audience is not just your instructor (or your classmates), but our broader arts community outside of the
academic world.

5. No minimum or maximum length, but 1000 words might be too limiting for you, while 2500 words
should be sufficient room to fully articulate yourself.

6. Use 11- or 12-point font and double-spaced lines for ease of reading and written remarks during peer
review. Please do not print small text that impedes the peer review process.

Early Pop Art and Conceptual art both intended to challenge art’s uniqueness, collectability, and salability (albeit in
different ways) as a form of institutional critique. Over time, society’s relationship to these art movements shifted and

In the introduction to Phaidon's 1998 book Conceptual Art, Godfrey writes about Modernism's attempt to
reflect the rapidly-changing world of industrialization and mass media. But by the 1960s Modernism's styles
were ever more insular and formal (formal as in use of line, shape, form, tone, texture, pattern, color, and
composition). Godfrey explains, "Conceptual art was a violent reaction against such modernist notions of
progress in the arts and against the art object's status as a special kind of commodity."

Earlier in the essay, Godfrey writes, “Art in the twentieth century has been awarded the highest accolade as
something we should admire and respect. To question it, as Conceptual art has done, is therefore to
question the inherent values of our culture and society. In recent years the art museum has taken on many
aspects of the church or temple: the reverential hush, the fetishism with which it preserves and guards its
sacred objects.”

Using concepts and examples covered in class discussion and assigned course readings, explain:
• how artwork in both of these movements resisted collectability or salability
• why artists would be motivated to challenge salability
• how the challenge to salability was form of institutional critique
• how the value of these artworks ultimately strengthened and/or further legitimated exhibitive power

You can include the concepts of commodity fetishism (as originally defined by Karl Marx), explaining how both fetish
in the religious or mystical sense and commodity fetishism as defined by Karl Marx could apply to the art object as “a
special kind of commodity.”

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