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Dan Graham: 'Conceptual art is bullshit'


I just came across this video of Dan Graham lambasting conceptual art via Out of Sync: Art in Focus. He criticizes conceptual art’s lack of accessibility, and lets Seth Siegelaub have it:

Dan Graham: People characterize me as [a] conceptual [artist] but I do not think I am [a] conceptual [artist]. I hate conceptual art, I don’t believe in it.

Off-camera interviewer: Why?

Graham: Because it’s bullshit. It’s about art and philosophy. Lawrence Weiner, when he began, the work was halfway between poetry and sculpture, and it was brilliant, it was just statements. But official conceptual art, like with Seth Siegelaub, I think is absolute bullshit. The idea that art is about philosophy, I don’t agree. One simple idea about conceptual art is that it’s available for anyone to understand, which is simply not true…the whole textbook conceptual art thing I absolutely hate, as it’s taught in schools.

Graham also says some rather problematic things that seem kind of well-intentioned but are nonetheless rather problematic:

I think i’m dealing with first impressions as a child, in other words, the mirror stage. I have to say, as a male feminist, the work is voyeuristic. And girls love it much more than boys, particularly as I use concave and convex forms. Boys can see themselves as superman on the concave side, overweight women can see themselves as very thin. So it’s like a funhouse situation…


As a “non-male feminist” who both respects Graham’s work and doesn’t say stuff like “overweight women like my work because it makes them look thin,” I do not know how to take this.

*Image of Dan Graham’s “Hedge Two-Way Mirror” at the Met courtesy


:frowning: By saying hating conceptual art sounds very contradictory to me, as his work is very conceptual in terms of its conventional definition.


“I don’t want to be part of any club that would have me as a member.” --Dan Graham :laughing:


The circle of argument reflected in the anime-animus paradox inside the feminist queer anti-anti-art make this all such a successful piece of conceptual art. Will Dan autograph this with his digital signature for me as a fan so I can finally commoditize digital threads, or is this just a conceptual give away like a Cory Arcangel new media art source code freebie for the unwealthy 99%?


I’m not sure where you’re going with this or what you’re trying to say, but you don’t sound happy.


I agree with Graham that conceptual art isn’t available for everyone to understand–it is a mystification to pretend that is the case.

Regarding your last point, it seems Graham’s interest in Lacan’s mirror stage doesn’t preclude him from drawing old sexist stereotypes (he also mixes girls with women if you listen to the audio), although he has been making concave/convex forms for over 30 years so perhaps it’s interesting to consider why, in his observation, girls find these works more interesting than boys.