Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity

By Alexander Alberro

An examination of the origins and legacy of the conceptual art movement.





An examination of the origins and legacy of the conceptual art movement.

Conceptual art was one of the most influential art movements of the second half of the twentieth century. In this book Alexander Alberro traces its origins to the mid-1960s, when its principles were first articulated by the artists Dan Graham, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, and others. One of Alberro's central arguments is that the conceptual art movement was founded not just by the artists but also by the dealer Seth Siegelaub. Siegelaub promoted the artists, curated groundbreaking shows, organized symposia and publications, and in many ways set the stage for another kind of entrepreneur: the freelance curator. Alberro examines both Siegelaub's role in launching the careers of artists who were making "something from nothing" and his tactful business practices, particularly in marketing and advertising.

Alberro draws on close readings of artworks produced by key conceptual artists in the mid- to late 1960s. He places the movement in the social context of the rebellion against existing cultural institutions, as well as the increased commercialization and globalization of the art world. The book ends with a discussion of one of Siegelaub's most material and least ephemeral contributions, the Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, which he wrote between 1969 and 1971. Designed to limit the inordinate control of collectors, galleries, and museums by increasing the artist's rights, the Agreement unwittingly codified the overlap between capitalism and the arts.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262011969 256 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 52 illus.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262511841 256 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 52 illus.


  • A valuable contribution to the literature on conceptual art.

    Michael Dashkin

    Library Journal

  • Alberro does a surprisingly good job of putting into perspective and recording the Conceptual Art movement.

    Gina Vivinetto

    St. Petersburg Times

  • This is in many ways a bold and suggestive book.

    Peter Osborne


  • This scholarly text on a little-examined topic draws fascinating parallels between the art world and postindustrial capitalism and telecommunications.

    Gregg Sapp

    Library Journal


  • This is the most rigorous history of conceptual art in print, and an important addition to the literature on postwar art.

    Pamela Lee

    Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University

  • Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity offers a detailed account of the complex relationship between the official Conceptual Art movement in New York City and the concomitant social and economic pressures of burgeoning late capitalism. Through clear prose and precise arguments, Alberro traces the intricate links among the conceptual artists and the entrepreneurs who marketed their work, thoughtfully exploring the contradictions these relationships entailed. Most importantly, the book demystifies the movement by pointing to the paradoxical dependence of dematerialized 'idea art' on the machinations of a voracious art market that made the works available for consumption while promoting them as resistant to the forces of institutionalization.

    Amelia Jones

    Professor of Art History, University of California, Riverside

  • This book brings thorough and original scholarship to a relatively neglected field. Alberro's work is presented with an impressive breadth of cultural, political and historical awareness. His command of wide-ranging sources is remarkable and his deployment of them revealing.

    Nicholas Baume

    Chief Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston