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Conceptual art set out to challenge two key assumptions normally associated with art – the production of objects to look at and the act of contemplative looking itself. This accessible introduction explores the reasons why the new avant-garde that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s felt compelled to produce such critical work and examines the extent to which this movement may be regarded as the turning point between the modernist past of painting and the postmodernist present of the contemporary art world.

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Conceptual art set out to challenge two key assumptions normally associated with art – the production of objects to look at and the act of contemplative looking itself. This accessible introduction explores the reasons why the new avant-garde that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s felt compelled to produce such critical work and examines the extent to which this movement may be regarded as the turning point between the modernist past of painting and the postmodernist present of the contemporary art world.The author traces the roots of Conceptual art in the anti-art practices of Marcel Duchamp, in Piero Manzoni’s parodies of art world values and in the activities of the Fluxus group. He then examines the way Conceptual artists both raised fundamental questions about artistic Modernism and turned to address wider social and political issues. In addition to discussions of American artists such as Dan Graham and Joseph Kosuth and the English group Art & Language, the author reviews the work of feminist artists, including Mary Kelly, the work of European figures such as Joseph Beuys and Daniel Buren, and work made outside Western Europe and North America by artists including Ilya. Kabakov, On Kawara and Cildo Meireles.

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