One and Three Ideas: Conceptualism before, during and after Conceptual Art

by Terry Smith

A lecture during conference “Global Conceptualism: The Case of Moscow Conceptualism in an International Context,” Center for Russian Writers, Moscow, sponsored by the Stella Art Foundation, April 14, 2011

To view click on   symposium

It is a nice paradox that the term ‘conceptualism’ came into art world existence after the advent of Conceptual Art – most prominently and programmatically in the exhibition Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s (New York: Queens Museum, 1999) – mainly in order to highlight the fact that innovative, experimental art practices occurred in Russia, Japan, South America, and elsewhere prior to, at the same time as and after the European and US initiatives that had come to seem paradigmatic, and to emphasize that these practices were more socially and politically engaged – and thus more relevant to the present and better art – than the well-known EuroAmerican exemplars. Triggered by remarks made by some of the key artists back in the day (and some made, later, by curators), I wish to revisit the terms ‘Conceptual Art’ and ‘conceptualism’ as pointers to what was at stake in the unraveling of late modern art during the 1960s and in art’s embrace of contemporaneity since.

Posted as part of “Empty Zones: Andrei Monastyrski and Collective Actions,” curated by Boris Groys, Russian Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale–31/

Published in e-flux journal, #29 (11, 2011) online at