What can conceptual art teach us about whether or not art needs to be aesthetic?

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Aaron Muldoon


Conceptual art, and its rejection of the aesthetic, poses a number of challenges to ‘traditional’ deοnitions of art. This paper considers whether art is necessarily aesthetic and what problems arise if we accept that it is not. My investigation will initially ask whether conceptual art (CA) can even be a kind of art, and will then discuss whether CA is necessarily aesthetic. In section 2, I present a range of existing views on this matter in order to show that conceptual art should indeed be considered a kind of art. I offer an evaluation of these views in section 3 before arguing that art in general is not necessarily aesthetic. In order to show this, I present arguments in support of the propositions that (i) CA is a kind of art and that (ii) CA is not aesthetic. Section 4 comprises a proposal suggesting that artworks are not necessarily aesthetic but rather are necessarily experienced in person. I then brieπy address a number of potential difοculties that accepting such a view might appear to entail.

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