Simón Marchán Fiz

From object art to concept art (1972-2012)

February 28 and March 1, 2013 - 7:00 p.m.
Nouvel Building, Auditorium
Study Centre´s program sponsored by

The recent 40th anniversary of the book Del arte objetual al arte del concepto (From object art to concept art) affords an excellent opportunity to analyse the trajectory of a book that is both a history and a manifesto of the new artistic practices in the 1970s. Its author, Simón Marchán Fiz, presents, in a master lecture, his methodological approach to the history of contemporary art. The next day, the new edition of the book is presented by Francisco Calvo Serraller, José Díaz Cuyás and Mari Carmen Ramírez, with the presence of the author.

Del arte objetual al arte del concepto is of key importance in the historiography of contemporary art. The book discusses the historical-social framework of conceptual practices from a theoretical perspective, invoking semiotics, phenomenology and post-structuralism to help readers understand art conceived of as a means of reflection. Its publication in 1972 links it to other events taking place that same year, events that were determining factors in the redefinition of audience, of art and of art institutions, such as documenta5 in Kassel or the Encuentros de Pamplona. The book Del arte objetual al arte del concepto, though never translated to English would acquire international and panoramic importance, comparable to that of Six Years: the Dematerialization of the Art Object(1973) by Lucy Lippard, and would become a new lexicon for understanding the transition between the avant-gardes and contemporary art.
Having set this objective for itself, the book lays out two highly significant means to achieve it. On the one hand, it maps out the expansion of art, organising it into a series of stages that goes from the collage used in cubism, the assemblage of neodada, the process of arte povera, minimalism and fluxus, and all the way through the crisis surrounding the art object, that is, the arrival of art as an idea. In addition, it groups conceptual practices into the following categories: tautological practices, which are those focused on linguistic self-referentiality, empirical-medial practices, which focus on the project, and ideological practices, which aim to influence the expanded political realm. With this final category, Marchán foreshadows the notion of institutional critique, proposed by Benjamin Buchloh years later, and also the idea of peripheral and antagonistic conceptualism, which has now been broadened in important exhibitions and research efforts around the world.

The book's radicality lies the fact that both of the means explored in it end in a clear overflow of the art system, or, in the words of the author, in the crisis of the art triangle. In short, this public program, integrated by two independent and complementary activities, allows for debate about a foundational text, reviewing both its origins and its effects.


Master lecture

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
28 February, 7 p.m.
Simón Marchán Fiz. Notas para una "parva Aesthetica" en torno a ciertos tópicos del arte actual

Book presentation
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200
1 March, 7 p.m.
Francisco Calvo Serraller, José Díaz Cuyás y Mari Carmen Ramírez, con la presencia del autor. Del arte objetual al arte del concepto (1972-2012)
Mesa redonda


Simón Marchán Fiz is a chaired professor of aesthetics and theory of the arts in the Philosophy Faculty of Spain's National University of Distance Education (UNED). He has published, among many other texts, Del arte objetual al arte del concepto (1972, 11th ed., 2012), El descrédito de las vanguardias artísticas (1980), Contaminaciones figurativas: imágenes de la arquitectura y la ciudad como figuras de lo moderno(1987), La estética en la cultura moderna: de la Ilustración a la crisis del estructuralismo (1987), La historia del cubo: Minimal art y fenomenología (1994), La metáfora del cristal en las artes y en la arquitectura (2008) and La disolución del clasicismo y la construcción de lo moderno (2010).

Francisco Calvo Serraller is a chaired professor of contemporary art history at Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

José Díaz Cuyás is a professor of aesthetics at the Universidad de La Laguna (Tenerife).

Mari Carmen Ramírez is the curator of Latin American art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.