Philosophy and Conceptual Art

By Peter Goldie; Elisabeth Schellekens | Go to book overview

11

Artistic Character, Creativity,
and the Appraisal of Conceptual Art

Matthew Kieran


11.1 Introduction

How should we appreciate conceptual art? Indeed, can conceptual art really be valuable as art? These are taken to be hard questions within contemporary philosophical aesthetics. If there's no artfully constructed or styled material object to appreciate, if there's no beauty or other aesthetic qualities to savour, if there's no insight to be gained in an experience with a work, how can it be artistically valuable? Indeed the worries about conceptual art articulated by philosophers tend to be shared by many ordinary art lovers. Yet if we look at contemporary artistic practice there hardly seems to be an issue here at all. Artists are happy enough to produce canvases with text only printed onto them, put together slogans lit up in neon, or enter as an exhibit for the Turner Prize an empty room with the light turning on and off. Within many circles of the art world such works are straightforwardly considered as art, admired, talked about, and evaluated as such. How can this be? Is contemporary artistic practice just confused? Or, rather, is there something fundamentally wrong with the way in which contemporary aesthetics, and indeed many ordinary art appreciators, approach conceptual art? I will suggest it is the latter. Indeed reflecting on conceptual art and the practice of art more generally will show (a) that conceptual art is not as anomalous as is commonly assumed and (b)

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