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Any of various art forms in which the idea for a work of art is considered more important than the finished product. The theory was explored by Marcel Duchamp from c. 1910, but the term was coined in the late 1950s by Edward Kienholz. In the 1960s and '70s it became a major international movement; its leading exponents were Sol LeWitt (1928–2007) and Joseph Kosuth (b. 1945). Its adherents radically redefined art objects, materials, and techniques, and began questioning the very existence and use of art. Its claim is that the true work of art is not a physical object produced by the artist for exhibition or sale, but rather consists of concepts or ideas. Typical conceptual works include photographs, texts, maps, graphs, and image-text combinations that are deliberately rendered visually uninteresting or trivial in order to divert attention to the ideas they express. Its manifestations have been extremely diverse; a well-known example is Kosuth's One and Three Chairs (1965), which combines a real chair, a photograph of a chair, and a dictionary definition of chair. Conceptual art was fundamental to much of the art produced in the late 20th century.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on conceptual art, visit Britannica.com.