Is This Art

Here is a question for you:

John Baldessari is a famous and respected artist.  The Broad Museum has a Baledessari picture.  Baldessari didn’t touch the piece (except maybe to sign it).  Here is how the Broad describes it:


John Baldessari
Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell
acrylic on canvas
68 1/4 x 56 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. (173.36 x 143.51 x 3.81 cm)
On View
Accession Date:
Accession Number:
About this artwork
John Baldessari never touched this painting. He did not paint it. He did not write the text. “There is a certain kind of work one could do that didn’t require a studio,” Baldessari said, “It’s work that is done in one’s head. The artists could be the facilitator of the work; executing it was another matter.” This concept — that an artist could present an idea rather than a material object from their own hand — was a way for Baldessari to take apart the notion of what art could be. In 1966 art meant painting, sculpture, or drawing, and with wry humor, Baldessari challenges this expectation. The viewer receives a painting in Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, but the painting is completed by sign painters. The viewer is presented with a painting’s content, but the content is text taken from an art trade magazine dictating what content should be .

In the second decade of the 20th century, Marcel Duchamp put a urinal signed “J. Mutt” on the wall of a  famous exhibition and said it was art because “I’m an artist and I say it is art.”  “Conceptualism,” one of the most lasting movements in art, was conceived.

What we have here is a piece of art where the art is untouched by an artist  nor was the idea behind it unique, nor did any other artistic hand touch the work (as might be argued with the work of Jeff Koons or Damian Hirst, whose artistic assistant’s execute the work).

Is this art?  Was Baldessari actually advancing the discussion of  Conceptualism beyond Duchamp?  Was he conceiving another question that makes this art?  Was he thumbing his nose at Conceptualism that makes this art?

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