Until very recently I hated conceptualism. Till I came across a piece written by Eric Wayne, an artist and art critic who wrote an article called “Why People Hate Contemporary/Conceptual Art”. It shifted my perception of conceptualism into a higher gear.
In conceptualism, the idea or concept behind the work became more important than the actual technical skill or aesthetic. Conceptualists use whichever materials and forms that are most appropriate to get their ideas across.
Eric still sees conceptualism as an art form, but by reading his analysis of the phenomenon I came to differ with him on the subject. Conceptualism and art relate to each other as philosophy with cosmology. While the first one ponders the question of HOW we should think, the second one proposes a vision concerning WHAT we should think about.
Why am I one of the few people saying this?
To quote Eric: “Part of the reason is it’s not welcome news in the art world, as it threatens the importance we place on revolutionary art acts within a given narrative of the progression of art history. People’s livelihoods depend on this belief NOT being countered. Additionally, critics benefit from an environment in which conceptualism is agreed upon as superseding traditional visual art. The tools of the critic are ideas, and the core of conceptualism consists of ideas. It became a game of ideas negotiated by critics, which gives them a purpose and power. Critics and theory are needed just to assess the art. Contemporary art criticism is in part a belief system, and an institutionalized one at that, which panders to the proverbial 1%, who are the only ones who can buy a Koons’ Balloon Dog. The buyers reciprocally have an influence on what is sold, and thus what is taken seriously”.
Conceptualism is like a religion confirmed Damien Hirst while proclaiming himself to its high priest when he launched himself into the NFT market.
The painting “Art, Conceptualism, and Universe” (Acrylic on canvas 24´ x 36′) has the Oedipidal relation between conceptualism and art as a subject. Anouchka Grose, a British-Australian Lacanian psychoanalyst and writer, summarized the Oedipus complex as following “You have to stop trying to be everything for your primary carer and get on with being something for the rest of the world”.
Just as the first philosophers started as cosmologists, the first conceptualists were artists. Just as philosophers are not anymore pretending to be cosmologists, conceptualists must stop pretending they´re artists. Only then there will be peace between artists and conceptualists.
What subject interests people more and how much they want to pay for it are personal decisions. Just don´t sell the public a book about philosophy while telling them it’s one about cosmology. Producing art is not the same as presenting an idea of art.