Past Events

Keith Arnatt’s Conceptualist Critique of Conceptual Art

Research Lunch – Christian Berger

  • 6 March 2020
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

This talk addresses the artist Keith Arnatt (1930–2008), one of the key figures of Conceptual art in Britain, and his work from around 1970, the peak period of that movement.

While choosing formal characteristics and theoretical references that were similar to those of some of his contemporaries, Arnatt constantly sought to explore the boundaries of these practices and to draw their fundamental assumptions into question. Arnatt’s text- and photo-based works often address the fundamental conditions of art and its presentation. In many of them, he called his own position and the necessity to make art into question; in some, he introduced subversive elements, such as morbid humour and scatological jokes. Further, at key occasions, such as his first solo exhibition at art & project in Amsterdam, he expanded this critical framework towards institutional critique. Drawing on close analyses of selected works as well as on unpublished archival materials, this talk highlights the scope of Arnatt’s critical ambition as well as the playful and subversive nature of his (self-)critique of Conceptual art.

Keith Arnatt, Trouser – Word Piece, 1972.

Digital image courtesy of Sprüth Magers. © Keith Arnatt Estate. All rights reserved. DACS/Artimage 2019.

About the speaker

  • Head shot of Christian Berger

    Christian Berger is a research fellow and lecturer at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. He received his PhD in Art History from Freie Universität Berlin, was a research fellow and lecturer at Philipps-Universität Marburg, and held fellowships at the German Center for Art History in Paris, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. He has published a book on repetition and experiment as artistic strategies in the work of Edgar Degas (Wiederholung und Experiment bei Edgar Degas, Berlin: Reimer, 2014) and is the editor of Conceptualism and Materiality: Matters of Art and Politics (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2019). His writings on artists such as Hanne Darboven, Antony Gormley, Douglas Huebler, Jasper Johns, Jirō Takamatsu, and James McNeill Whistler have appeared in journals including Texte zur Kunst, Visual Resources, and Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, as well as in edited volumes and exhibition catalogues.