Ism number seven – Neo-Conceptualism

Definition – Neo-Conceptualism

Neo-Conceptualism was a label applied to the art of the 1980s and 1990s that continued Conceptualism’s questioning of the art object and the art institution, but with a close eye on the commodification of art and its relation to gender, race, and class. There is no overriding aesthetic of Neo-Conceptualist painting and sculpture, which were generally avoided in favour of photography, video, and film, and forms of mass-media such as advertising. Neo-Conceptualism was influenced by Postmodernist theory, which aimed to take apart ideas of societal progress and individual authorship or genius.

Subsequent initiatives since the coining of the term ‘Neo-Conceptualsim’ have included the Moscow Conceptualists; United States neo-conceptualists such as Cindy Sherman; and the Young British Artists, notably Damien Hirst and Tracey Emim.

Charles Harrison, a member of the conceptual art group ‘Art and Language’ in the 1970s, criticizes the Neo-Conceptual art of the 1990s as conceptual art ‘without threat or awkwardness’ and a ‘vacant’ prospect.

Four Key Artists

Ilya Kabakov – Kabakov is a Russian-American Conceptual artist, and he was one of the Moscow Conceptualists. Kabakov has produced a wide range of paintings, drawings, installations, and theoretical texts and also memoirs that chart his life from his childhood to the early 1980s. More recently, he has created installations examining the visual culture of the Soviet Union.

Toilet Interior

Cindy Sherman – Sherman is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. Sherman has aimed at asking challenging and vital questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art.


Damien Hirst – Hirst is a member of the Young British Artists. A key theme of his is death. He does appear to favour the grotesque and the decaying. ‘A Thousand Years, one of Hirst’s most provocative and engaging works, contained an actual life cycle. Maggots hatched inside a white minimal box, turned into flies, then fed on a severed cow’s head on the floor of a glass vitrine. Above, newly-hatched flies wove around in the closed space. Some of the flies met a violent end in an insect-o-cutor; others survived to continue the cycle.

A Thousand Years – flies and a cow’s head

Simon Starling – Starling is another member of the so-called Young British Artists. He won the Turner Prize in 2005 with the work, ‘Shedboatshed’ for which he took a wooden shed, transformed it into a boat, sailed it down the Rhine and turned it back into a shed.

One Key Work

There are lots of works to choose from and Tracey Emin seems to come up again and again so here I’ve chosen ‘Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995’ which was a tent appliquéd with 102 names of the people she had slept next to / with up to the time of its creation in 1995.

Tracey’s Tent


Wikipedia on Neo-Conceptualism, [last accessed 19 November 2012], [last accessed 19 November 2012]

Wikipedia on Ilya Kabakov, [last accessed 19 November 2012]

Cindy Sherman’s website, [last accessed 19 November 2012]

Wikipedia on Damien Hirst, [last accessed 19 November 2012]

Wikipedia on Simon Starling, [last accessed 19 November 2012]

Tracey Emin’s website, [last accessed 19 November 2012]

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