From the 20th century onwards, the beauty of much art is it has no need for the eye of a beholder. Conceptual works, in theory, place as much importance on the idea as the finished visual object. And while lots can be said about the dozen pieces below, the kernel of each is a thought of no more than 140 characters.
This is not to assume that simple ideas are the best. But it is possible that in a time of information overload, and web-based attention spans, they are the ones that travel best. If these artworks translate into tweets, it is only a sign of their power.
- Benjamin Peret, Insulting a Priest (1926):
â€œA black and white photo of a surrealist poet harranguing a man of the cloth, as featured in a 1926 manifesto for the liberation of desireâ€
- Robert Rauschenberg, Erased De Kooning Drawing (1953):
â€œAfter six weeks of careful erasing a heavily worked drawing by Willem de Kooning becomes a gold-framed piece of near blank paperâ€
- Marcel Broodthaers, Femur of a Belgian Man and Femur of a French Woman (1964-5):
â€œTwo human bones, one from Belgian man, one from a French woman, each painted in the colours of the flags of their respective nationsâ€
- Joseph Kosuth, One and Three Chairs (1965):
â€œA folding wooden chair, a photo of the same (not by the artist) and a blown up definition of the word chair to be displayed as one pieceâ€
- Jannis Kounellis, Untitled (1969):
â€œA white-walled Rome gallery became a temporary stable for 12 quite mucky and fairly noisy live horsesâ€
- John Baldessari, The Commissioned Paintings (1969-70):
â€œOut on a walk, the artist took close up pics of a friend pointing at interesting things, then asked 14 sunday painters to paint the photosâ€
- Adrian Piper, Untitled Performance for Max’s Kansas City (1970):
â€œThe artist wears blindfold and gloves and pays a visit to a New York bar where the art world generally go to see and be seenâ€
- JÃ¸rgen Nash, Decapitated Little Mermaid (1972):
â€œThe head of Copenhagen’s most famous statue is cut off by (it is said) the Second Situationist International. The artist is a memberâ€
- Hans Haacke, Manet-PROJEKT 74 (1974):
â€œA proposal that a Manet painting be displayed next to panels giving details of all the work’s previous owners and their business activitiesâ€
- Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting (1974):
â€œA suburban house is cut down the middle and undermined causing it to split and thereby open a rift in the social fabricâ€
- Gavin Turk, Cave, 1991:
â€œFor his degree show, the artist leaves nothing in his studio but a blue plaque with the words: Gavin Turk, Sculptor, worked here 1989-1991â€
- Sherrie Levine, Fountain (1991):
â€œMarcel Duchamp’s infamous urinal readymade has been recast in bronze to give it, at last, some respectabilityâ€
By now you should be convinced, some of the most important works of modern and contemporary art lose little from a lot of distillation. They might even work as tweets, albeit ones with plenty more to say.
More details on the 12 artworks can be found in Conceptual Art, by Tony Godfrey (published by Phaidon), which contains hundreds more like them all discussed in considerably more depth.