Conceptual Art in Britain: Room Guide

This exhibition spotlights a key development that fundamentally changed the nature of art. Conceptual art proposed an art where the idea or concept was placed above the work’s material form (which might be ephemeral), realising Marcel Duchamp’s dictum of putting ‘art at the service of the mind’. The shift in focus from an art object to ideas about art became a critical and analytical act, exploring both the nature of art itself and its context and role in the world as art. Conceptual art was a set of strategies for making art, which still has an effect on many artists working today.

The exhibition spans a period of social and cultural changes, both nationally and internationally, here identified by the election of Harold Wilson’s first Labour government in 1964 and the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in 1979. Conceptual art’s idealism was for an art that might reconnect with the world and act within it, and this exhibition follows a number of routes from the realities of the artwork to the realities of the world and an engagement with the conditions of society that became more visible by the end of the decade.

Large print room guide texts

Explore the rooms in the exhibition