Conceptual art and the Renaissance were born together. When Alberti advised in 1434 that the invention of a work of art was pleasing even before its realization, he rendered Sol LeWitt and all his confreres rear-guard. Severing art from craft, he dubbed the artist an intellectual and urged him to develop a literary as well as a Biblical imagination. He also inserted botulism into a can of worms, one that took a long time to ferment but that led eventually to the flagrant disregard for the object that currently reigns quasi-absolutely.
Disregard for the object was de rigeur during the medieval period. It might be supposed that conceptual art owes more to the theory of the medieval icon than to Alberti. In both cases the object is not the locus of value, but a sign that directs the viewer to immaterial value – in Alberti’s case, to the artist; and in the icon’s case, to a saint or divine personage. And that is why Alberti trumps the icon: now, as in the Renaissance … (to read more)