IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A Conceptual World: Why the Art of the Twentieth Century is So Different From the Art of All Earlier Centuries


  • David W. Galenson


This paper surveys 31 new genres of art that were invented during the twentieth century, chronologically from collage, papier colle, and readymades through installation, performance, and earthworks. This unprecedented proliferation in art forms was a direct consequence of the dominant role of conceptual innovation in the century's art, as a series of young iconoclasts deliberately broke the conventions and rules of existing artistic practice in the process of devising new ways to express their ideas and emotions. This overview affords a more precise understanding of one conspicuous and important way in which twentieth-century art differed from that of all earlier eras. The proliferation of genres has fragmented the advanced art world. A century ago, a great painter could influence nearly all advanced artists, but today it is virtually impossible for any one artist to influence practitioners of genres as diverse as painting, video, and installation. This survey also underscores the central role of Picasso in the advanced art of the past century, as he not only created the first, and one of the most important, of the new genres, but in doing so he also provided a new model of artistic behavior that became an inspiration for many other young conceptual artists.

Suggested Citation

  • David W. Galenson, 2006. "A Conceptual World: Why the Art of the Twentieth Century is So Different From the Art of All Earlier Centuries," NBER Working Papers 12499, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12499
    Note: LS

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12499. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: () or (Joanne Lustig). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.