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West Wing

Room 31

Room 14 of 16

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As conceptual art emerged through the late 1960s, it became a major turning-point in 20th-century art. Its credo that art is ideas challenged notions about art, society, politics and the media.Conceptual artists argued that the knowledge and thought gained in artistic production was more important than the finished product, and produced publications, texts and paintings in accordance with the theory that art only really exists conceptually.

Joseph Kosuth’s Three Titled Meanings (A.A.I.A.I.) (1967) is an entirely text-based piece that questions the capacity of different languages to represent the same concept. Noel Sheridan encases two volumes of Chambers’s Information for the People in Perspex, rendering the reference books inaccessible.

During a five-hour performance, Dennis Oppenheim exposes his bare chest to the sun. Body becomes canvas, sun becomes paint, as he explores both the boundaries of the self and of self-harm.

The elevation of the commonplace was also a signature of conceptual artists. In Film (1963) Michael Craig-Martin’s basic approach to film-making is reflected in his subject-matter by capturing the empty stillness of the Connemara landscape. Joseph Beuys makes use of everyday materials such as butter and peat in Irish Elegy (1971), serving as traces of memory and history, and as reminders of deeper, ancient rituals.