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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The first conceptual art

Concept art involves the commodification (or "reification" in more specific but less accessible terms) of a thoroughly investigated idea. In other words an object becomes the means for sophisticated human communication. This is to be distinguished from "fine" art in that "fine" art involves the communication between the artist and his audience. Here it is only important that the medium of communication be mastered. Ideas are secondary.

The conceptual artist of our generation is undoubtedly Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook, his art commodity, has already earned billions. His idea involves the exploration of "cool" and "exclusivity" in human interaction. His work eclipses that of minor concept artists like Jeff Koons and Damian Hirst who exploit the same idea in primitive and thoroughly cynical ways. (In fact, their idea is that anyone with a lot of money and little self esteem can be swindled by the promise of cool and exclusivity. True, perhaps, but not very interesting.)

But the first Concept Artist was Alyattes of Lydia. His art piece - the first inscribed coin - is pictured above. His idea was that the use of this art commodity would change the face of human communication and interaction forever, by creating a universal medium of exchange. Twenty five hundred years later the sophisticated web of world markets is still very much dependent on this conceptual art piece.

And the very piece invented, designed and issued by Alyattes of Lydia is up at auction, estimated at about 1/1000 of the price of a "shark in formaldehyde" which will certainly be forgotten within ten years.

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