Conceptual art and artists

Conceptual art and artists

Conceptual Art can be just about anything. The idea or concept is central. This approach set artists free of the boundaries of traditional sculpture and painting, enabling them to use found objects, text, video and much more. With Conceptual art there are no limits. The ideas of artists are art.

This lesson plan is an introduction to Conceptual art focusing on primarily on Work No.88. A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball by Martin Creed. This sculpture, made in 1995, is in the collection of Manchester Art Gallery. It is exactly as it says in the title, a ball of paper crumpled into a ball. It challenges the ideas of what sculpture is and demands the viewer to think about why the artist crumpled it.

Is this art? You decide.

Key Stage:

KS3&4 Art and Design


<b>The origins of Conceptual art</b><br>

The origins of Conceptual art

The beginnings of Conceptual art go back to an artist called Marcel Duchamp who bought a urinal in 1917, signed it with the pseudonym R.Mutt, and entered it into an art exhibition in New York. Inevitably this act by Duchamp caused outrage but Duchamp argued that it didn't matter that the artist had not actually made the object himself. The important thing was that he had chosen it. The making was not important but the idea and the selection was.

Lobster Telephone

In 1938 Salvador Dalí and Edward James created a number of telephones with lobsters on. Dalí saw the connection between the shape of the lobster shell and the telephone handset and simply put the two together. He found a company to make a number of these telephones for the house in London of his great supporter, Edward James. Salvador Dalí may never have even touched this sculpture, which is now in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
<b> Work No.88. A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball</b><br>

Work No.88. A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball

In 1995 British artist Martin Creed crumpled a ball of paper and instead of throwing it into the waste paper bin he titled it Work No.88. In a waste paper bin it is a piece of rubbish destined for recycling. In an art gallery, protected by a perspex box, it is a piece of art that tells the viewer about frustration and failure. Close examination of the work shows that actually far from being a carelessly screwed up ball of paper it is actually carefully crumpled into a perfect ball.

Work No.88

Martin Creed made 150 copies of Work No.88 and one of these is now in the collection of Manchester Art Gallery. Nikita at the gallery has tried her best to answer questions from young people about the work.

Watch the film a couple of times and then discuss the four questions below.
<b>Question 1</b><br>

Question 1

Having heard what Nikita says about the sculpture do you think the work should be in the gallery and is it as important a work as she seems to think it is?

Do you agree with her and if not why not?
Is Work No.88 a sculpture?
<b>Question 2</b><br>

Question 2

Nikita says Conceptual art makes us think and challenge the world around us.

Do you agree or does it just make you cross?
What do you think the crumpled piece of paper means to people who look at it?
<b>Question 3</b><br>

Question 3

Is Martin Creed a good artist?  If so why?
<b>Question 4</b><br>

Question 4

Nikita says that in a digital future using paper and scrunching up paper in frustration will be a thing of the past.

Do you agree and will all art be digital in the future?

Development Activity:

Elsewhere on CultureStreet there is a video about the Conceptual artist John Latham and his house in London which he declared a living sculpture.

Flat time House

There is also a lesson plan about John Latham that might support or develop this activity.

John Latham and time

You can see a full version of the Martin Creed film on this page.

Work No.88

If you want to find out more about the work of Salvador Dali and his approach to making sculpture you could try our Surrealist sculpture lesson plan.


Learning Objectives:

Through using this lesson plan students should:
Develop communication skills of active listening and assertiveness by listening to different opinions and expressing their own thoughts and feelings about contemporary visual art and in particular the work of Martin Creed.

Research, Notes and Links: