Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
What Is Conceptual Art?
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extensions -- Additional activities


Media Components

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM.
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
Specific Software Needed:
  • Web page building software (optional)
  • HyperStudio or PowerPoint (optional)


Students need the following supplies:

  • Chart paper
  • Poster board and magic markers
  • At least one computer with Internet access
  • Student Organizer handouts

    Bookmarked Sites:

    Art history Conceptual artists General conceptual art sites Reflections on conceptual art and artists
    • EGG THE ARTS SHOW: Interview with Katy Siegel
      Click on "Interview" in the navigation bar on this page, then select "Katy Siegel." This is the interview that students are asked to read in the homework assignment
    Conceptual art collections Web page building sites
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    Introductory Activity:

  • Ask students to write about the following two questions for 20 minutes and then have them discuss their ideas as a class.
    • What makes something a work of art?
    • What, if anything, do you think the purpose of art should be? What effect should it have on the viewer?
    Ask students to list their favorite artists, art works, and describe what makes these works so appealing to them. How do they make them feel? What do they make them think about?

    Learning Activities:

    Activity One: Making an Art History Timeline

  • Tell students that they are going to create an art history timeline, working from the 1880s up to the present. In order to get an overview of this extensive topic, break students into groups of two to three to research the movements listed below. For a printer-friendly version, go to STUDENT ORGANIZER: ACTIVITY ONE.
    • Impressionism
    • Post-Impressionism
    • Expressionism
    • DaDa
    • Some of the following: Die Brücke, Fauvism, Cubism, Bauhaus, Harlem Renaissance, Surrealism
    • Abstract Expressionism
    • Pop Art
    • Minimalism
    • Conceptual Art
    • Post-Modern Art

  • Each group should provide the following information on their movement (and anything else they found interesting):
    • Time period their movement encompasses
    • A brief summary of the most important ideas behind the movement
    • Historical influences that led up to this movement, or a mention of what came before this movement in the art world
    • If the movement was a reaction to something, what was it?
    • The purpose of the movement--what was it trying to say about art
    • Media used by artists of the movement e.g., paint, photography, ready-made objects…
    • Major artists or founders of the movement
    • Characteristics of the artwork representing this movement
    • Initial reaction of the public to the movement
    • Two to three pieces of art work from this movement (Xeroxes, printouts from the Internet), along with why they are representative of this period

    Art history sites for research
  • Once students have done their research, they should create a poster displaying their findings along with samples of artwork from their movement. Ideally, the poster should be done in the style of the movement they were covering. Or, have students create a presentation using HyperStudio or PowerPoint.

  • Each group should give a 5-10 minute presentation of their movement. (Have students present in chronological order, so they can see how each movement influenced its successor.) Encourage students to ask questions of the presenters. After the presentations, hang the posters, in chronological order, in your classroom.

  • Next, break students into groups of 4-5 and ask them to discuss which movement appealed to them most, and why.

  • Homework: Ask students to read the interview with Katy Siegel at the PBS EGG THE ART SHOW site below and answer the questions in the STUDENT ORGANIZER: ACTIVITY ONE HOMEWORK.

    • EGG THE ARTS SHOW: Interview with Katy Siegel
      Click on "Interview" in the menu bar on this page, then select "Katy Siegel." This is the interview that students are asked to read in the homework assignment. To print it, simply copy (Ctrl+C) the article and paste (Ctrl+P) it into a word document.

    Activity Two: Researching a Conceptual Artist

  • Break students into pairs. Ask them to choose an artist from the list provided below, (or they can choose any artist they come across who is widely considered to be a conceptual artist), and do research to learn about the artist’s life, work, and ideas. The topics they investigate should include: (For a printer-friendly version, go to STUDENT ORGANIZER: ACTIVITY TWO.)

    About the artist:
    • When they lived, where they lived, major art movements going on at the time
    • Who influenced their work
    About a piece of their artwork:
    • What objects are in the work?
    • How are the objects placed in relation to one another?
    • What colors are used?
    • What senses is the artist appealing to?
    • Which elements stand out the most?
    • Why do you think the artist made those elements stand out more?
    • What messages did the artists want to send to the viewer, if any?
    List of conceptual artists:
    • John Cage
    • Yoko Ono
    • Lawrence Weiner
    • Marcel Duchamp
    • Sol Lewitt
    • Joseph Kosuth
    • Robert Smithson
    Students can use these sites to begin their research:
  • Have students present their research to the class.

  • After the presentations, ask students to generate a list of commonalities they find between the conceptual artists presented. Using this list, have them create a working definition of conceptual art. Display this definition in your classroom.

  • After they’ve written their definition, tell students they can add to it with information they find on the following sites:

    Sites about conceptual art
    Culminating Activity/Assessment: Conceptual Art Creation and Exhibit

  • Ask students to create their own work of conceptual art, using materials accessible to them in their daily lives. Make sure to review student concepts before they execute them.

  • The final piece should be accompanied by an artist’s statement that describes:
    • What objects are in the work? Why?
    • How are the objects placed in relation to one another? Why?
    • What colors are used? Why?
    • What senses are they appealing to? Why?
    • Which elements stand out the most? Why?
    • What messages they want to send to the viewer, if any?

  • Each piece should be titled (or purposefully left untitled).

  • As a class, brainstorm ideas for the title of the exhibit.

  • If students would like to display their exhibit in class, encourage them to invite other classes in to see their art. They may want to give a brief explanation of conceptual art to the visiting classrooms. The artist’s statements should accompany the pieces of art.

  • If students decide to display or create their work online, they may want to visit the following site to see one example of an online conceptual art gallery.

    The following sites offer information on how to create a Web site:


    Cross-Curricular Extension:

    Social Studies: Ask students to choose an appealing movement on the art history timeline to research the social and political milieu. Have them write an essay on the connections they see between the time and the artwork produced during that time.

    Social Studies, Art: Remind students of how the camera redirected the focus of many artists. Now tell them to imagine they’re living one hundred years into the future. Tell them to describe a technological invention that triggers a new movement in art history. Students are encouraged to create or describe a piece of artwork from this new movement.

    Community Extension:
    Visit a local museum or invite a local artist to discuss and show their work.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students