Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Patricia Berman


The creation of the conceptual work of art begins with the artist’s idea and ends with its communication or implementation. Hereafter the idea can only be encountered insofar as its materialization acts as record, embodiment, or agent of the work. The life of the object has however just begun. As the materials leave the artist’s ownership and enter the art world, they become artifacts, whose ascribed value and meaning shift as they enter different contexts. This thesis examines the complex and ambiguous relationship between a work’s conceptual aims and its material presence through a trifold exploration of the oeuvre of Japanese artist On Kawara (1933-2014). Following the life of Kawara’s conceptual art objects as they are realized in the studio, enter the market and exhibition, and transition to their afterlife in permanent museum collections, I consider how the changing status of the object shapes the meaning of the conceptual work.