Sunday, 26 January 2020

Finding a Target Audience: Conceptual Art

As I am creating essentially a conceptual art piece with the diary more in the manner of Sophie Calle* it is difficult to precisely identify a target market.  Conceptual originally wasn't exactly made to be sold.  Here is an example;

'In 1970, the collecting couple Herb and Dorothy Vogel spent $250—roughly $1,667 in today’s dollars—on a work of art that can never be displayed, and, in some sense, never existed in the first place. Robert Barry’s Closed Gallery (1969) was a performance in which galleries in Amsterdam, Turin, and Los Angeles followed the artist’s instructions to close the gallery space for the duration of their respective Robert Barry shows. The only physical representations of the work were its certificate of authenticity and three copies of the invitation sent out to promote a show that never happened, which the Vogels received in turn for their money. The invitation simply says: “During the exhibition the gallery will be closed.”' (Freeman N. 29.08.2018)
Essentially often there was not anything to own and as it often encompassed a performative or live element this made it difficult to sell.  Conceptual art is cerebral and about the idea but now if people want it they have found ways to buy this. Yoko Ono created instructions and put them in a gallery so that essentially the participants 'made' the work for example: 'Lighting Piece (1955) reads: “Light a match and watch till it goes out.” and Ono’s Instruction Paintings were objects, usually based on her Event Scores, meant to be completed by the viewer. Painting to Hammer a Nail In (1961/1966) was a wooden panel from which a hammer hung on a chain; a jar of nails sat on a chair below it. Viewers were invited to hammer one of the nails into the panel. ' (Walker Gallery: 2020)

All of this, of course, does not explain how to actually sell it or who the target market is, however, there is a market but it is more complex than stating that Generation Z or X will buy it.  Conceptual has been sold at auction to art collectors, however; 'In his book Art of the Deal, Noah Horowitz argues that because Conceptual art is commenting on the nature of production—he calls it “art about the system of art-making”—it is “deprivileging” art, aligning itself with a Marxist critique of consumer culture. But its success as an anti-capitalist gesture depends on it being genuinely unsellable.' (Freeman N. 29.08.2018) The Guardian stated about one of Richard Long's pieces of Land Art; 'It isn’t possessable. You can’t buy it; it doesn’t exist. All the same, it’s free if you want it. You simply have to conceive of it, to let the idea occupy your imagination.'(Laing 09.04.2016)

So for the average person, the closest you will get to buying conceptual art is to buy one of the many books created by Sophie Calle or Yoko Ono, or even land artists like Richard Long so although the original work is not saleable as such the production of books which include photographs of the work do sell.  As I was writing this I checked out the estimated worth of Sophie Calle and discovered it was $41million! (celebstrendingnow; 2020) Yoko Ono is now worth $600 million (celebritynetworth; 2020) and Tracey Emin $52 million so these conceptual artists have obviously found ways to make their work worth money and people to buy it.

Therefore to conclude, I may not have 'found' a target market but I can certainly study how other conceptual artists work and make money with their work.  Although the ideas of conceptual art come from anti-capitalism and that the original work may be unsellable clearly these artists have to find a way to live.  The art market also is a strange place, in the sense that art is worth what people are willing to pay and this means it has an unknowable factor.  It is difficult to predict what will sell and what will not and which artists are worth collecting and could be worth millions in the future and which will be forgotten.

*Sophie Calle is a conceptual artist who made her life into art and often her pieces were a mix of text and photographs 'Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability, and examines identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing.' (Tate 2020)

References (2020) Yoko Ono, Net Worth [Online] Available from (Accessed 26.01.2020) (2020) Sophie Calle, Net Worth [Online] Available from: (Accessed 26.01.2020) (2020) Tracey Emin, Net Worth [Online] Available from: (Accessed 26.01.2020)

Freeman N. (29.08.2018) Artsy, Conceptual Art Wasn’t Meant to Be Collected. Now It Sells for Six Figures [Online] Available from: (Accessed 26.01.2020)

Laing O. (09.04.2016) The Guardian: Conceptual art: why a bag of rubbish is not just a load of garbage [Online] Available from: (Accessed 26.01.2020)

Tate (2020) Sophie Calle [Online] Available from: (Accessed 26.01.2020)

Walker Gallery (2020) Yoko Ono 1933- Present [Online] Available from: (Accessed 26.01.2020)

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