Joseph Kosuth

United States 1945

Conceptual Art

Joseph Kosuth
Joseph Kosuth
United States
September 17, 2016

Replacing the visual display with words used to convey the relationship between ideas and the images, Joseph Kosuth was one of the beginners of Conceptual art during the 1960’s, advocating the theory that art should be deprived of any trace of skill and craft in order not to interfere ideas to be revealed directly, immediately, and purely as possible. Obsessed with the equivalences between the visual and linguistic and influenced by the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ideas of language, Kosuth strived to comprehend the relation between words and their meanings and their direct impact on the things they describe. His work has often incorporated for him interesting quotes from literature, philosophy, psychology, and history, offering to the audience a chance to contemplate issues of poverty, racism, loneliness, isolation, the meaning of life, and personal identity.

 The installation at sean kelly gallery included photograph of definition. american museum collection represents the view on artists works
Joseph Kosuth – Frammento, 1999

Beginnings of Conceptual Art

Kosuth was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1945, where he attended the Museum School of Design since he was ten. After one-year drawing and painting studies at the Cleveland Institute of Art, he traveled abroad, throughout Europe and North Africa, and finally settled in New York City in 1965, where he studied painting at the School of Visual Arts until 1967. Already questioning the utility of imagery in conveying meanings and ideas and exploring the use of language, Kosuth decided to study anthropology and philosophy at the New School for Social Research. At the age of only 20, he started to create complex works that would announce the Conceptual art and its comprehension of art as a pure idea and meaning. Assembling the objects, the photographs of those objects and an enlarged copy of the dictionary explanation of it, his One and Three series of installations (1965) have represented a direct exploration of his strivings. His first and at the same time the most famous example of his this series, One and Three Chairs, questions what actually constitutes a chair in our thinking – the object or the word? As a piece that highlight the relation between the language, picture, and referent, it confronts the viewer with the use of words for explaining or identification, exploring how language plays an integral role in the conveying meaning of things, becoming the verbal or written equivalent for the object. First Investigations, subtitled Art as Idea as Idea (1966-68), enlarged Photostats of dictionary definitions completely deprived of objects in order to focus on meaning conveyed through pure language, were inspired by Ad Reinhardt’s comment that “art is art as art and everything else is everything else”. Often compared to his reductive abstract paintings, Kosuth admitted that theories of his colleague painter were interesting to him, especially his ideas on the moral and social importance of art. Two artists showed nothing but mutual understanding and respect, Reinhardt even exhibited a copy of Julia R. de Forest’s Short History of Art to Kosuth’s 1967 exhibition Fifteen People Submit Their Favorite Book at Lannis gallery in New York. Besides Reinhardt, other prominent artists of the contemporary New York scene gave their contribution to this show, such as Sol LeWitt, Dan Graham, Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, Carl Andre, and others[1]. The same year, Kosuth established the Museum of Normal Art, new city exhibition space.

Kosuth’s 1967 exhibition gathered group of the most prominent Conceptual artists

 He exhibited photograph and works of definition of chair. This exhibitions are part of his research
Joseph Kosuth – One and Three Chairs, 1965

Exploring the Nature of Meaning

By the 1970’s people started to collect his Photostats (quick photographic copies of text) as souvenirs, “objectifying and fetishizing” them, as the artist thought, so he decided to publish them as advertisements in magazines, aiming of further undermining their object-like value. Late 1960’s was marked with his installations consisted of words shaped of neon light tubes and applied on different surfaces in a form of simple statements, clear and self-evident. Kosuth’s early conceptual works have been met with acceptance, praised for their innovation, which led him to the teaching position at the School of Visual Arts in 1967. Two years later, he published his first edition of Art after Philosophy, three-part essay in which he processes the theme that visual art could be used for exploration of the meaning of language, asserting Marcel Duchamp as the crucial person for directing the Modern art from visual development to ideas embodied through common, non-artistic objects. As the American represent, Kosuth became a part of the Conceptual group Art & Language based in Great Britain until 1976, when he met with disagreement with the other members about some publications and his own popularity independently of the group. During his philosophy and anthropology studies, he found the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein, particularly his 1921 Tractatus Logico-Philosopicus, very useful and applicable to his own work which would be exploit later in his experiments with words, explorations of nature of meaning, language cognition, and relation between language and art, as a permanent concern in his pieces. Throughout his career, Kosuth wrote and edited numerous publications which relied on his philosophy, often mentioning Duchamp’s readymades as a foundation of his thoughts. Asserting that works of conceptual art are linguistic in character, he emphasized the idea of their defining role, making them tautological[2]. In recent years, he received a number of commissions for numerous site-specific large-scale installations at Louvre, Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and the Norman Foster renovated building in Berlin.

Kosuth often mentioned Duchamp’s readymades as a foundation of his thoughts about art

 he is an american artist whose neon installation has been shown at sean kelly gallery and in museum collection
Joseph Kosuth – Four Colors Four Words, 1966

Sagnificant Part of Biography – Awards and Recognitions

The artist received his first award, a Cassandra Foundation Grant in 1968, at the age of only 23, as the choice of Marcel Duchamp, who died one week later. It was followed by the Brandeis Award in 1990, Frederick Weisman Award in 1991, the Menzione d’Onore at the Venice Biennale in 1993, and the Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government the same year. Other recognition he has received from the French Republic was a 3-franc post stamp in honor of his work in Figeac. In 2003, Kosuth was awarded the Austrian Republic’s highest honour for accomplishments in science and culture and in May 2012 he was inducted into the Royal Belgian Academy[3]. Since his first teaching position in 1967 at the School of Visual Arts in New York, he has been visiting professor at numerous institutions, such as the Staatliche Akademie der Bildende Kunste in Stuttgart, Yale University, Pratt Institute, and Oxford University.

Joseph Kosuth splits his time between New York and Rome.


  1. Anonymous. Joseph Kosuth, Wikipedia [September 16, 2016]
  2. Kosuth, J. Art After Philosophy and After: Collected Writing, 1966-1990, Mit Pr, 1991
  3. Anonymous. Biography, Sean Kelly [September 16, 2016]

Featured image: Joseph Kosuth – Artist’s portrait – Image via
All other images via

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Wall to Wall: Carpets by ArtistsMuseum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA), ClevelandGroup
2016Breve storia del futuroPalazzo Reale, MilanGroup
2016Daydreaming with Stanley KubrickSomerset House, LondonGroup
2016Highlights from The Fairholme Unlimited FoundationLowe Art Museum, Coral Gables, MiamiGroup
2016Art Space GermanySeoul National University Museum of Art (SNUMoA), SeoulGroup
2016Freundschaftsspiel Istanbul : FreiburgMuseum für Neue Kunst, FreiburgGroup
2015Reflexiones. Colleccion CGAC - CGACCentro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de CompostelaGroup
2015Andy Warhol sul comòMuseo d’Arte Contemporanea di Villa Croce, GenoaGroup
2015Joseph Kosuth - Agnosia, an Illuminated OntologySean Kelly Gallery, New York CityGroup
2015Joseph KosuthGalleri Brandstrup, OsloGroup
2015Joseph Kosuth - Made at ConceptionLeo Castelli Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
2015I Love YouFondation Videoinsight, TurinGroup
2015American ClassicsLA projects, LandshutGroup
2015Reads Like a BookCricoteka, KrakowGroup
2015Joseph Kosuth - AmneziyaMultimedia Art Museum - Moscow House of Photography, MoscowGroup
2014CounterIntelligenceJustina M Barnicke Gallery, University of Toronto, Toronto, ONGroup
2014Texte In der KunstGeorg Kargl Fine Arts & Georg Kargl Box, ViennaGroup
2014Joseph Kosuth: Das Dasein und die WeltKunstmuseums Thurgau, Warth, SwitzerlandSolo
2014Sincerely Yours: Treasures Of The Queen CityAlbright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
2014A InusitadaMuseu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand - MASP, São PauloGroup
2014Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau CollectionSan Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CAGroup
2014Einblicke in die Sammlung WemhönerSammlung Wemhöner, BerlinGroup
2014La Biblioteca Y El SaberKoldo Mitxelena Kulturunea, San SebastiánGroup
2014Optical MixACCA - Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, VICGroup
2013When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969 / Venezia 2013Fondazione Prada, VeniceGroup
2013The Red QueenMona - Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, TASGroup
2013Aging Leather ShoesKamakura Gallery, KanagawaGroup
2013In Deed: Certificates of Authenticity in ArtWeatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NCGroup
2013In DeedContemporary Art Centre (CAC), VilniusGroup
2013Die Sammlung #321er Haus, ViennaGroup
2013Adventures of truth - Painting and philosophyFondation Maeght, Saint-PaulGroup
2013The Mediterranean Experience: The Mediterranean as a spatial paradigm for the circulation of ideas and meaningMMCA Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, ThessalonikiGroup
2013B.A.B.E - The Best Artists Books and EditorsImmanence, espace d'art contemporain, ParisGroup
2013Reinventing the Wheel: The readymade centuryMUMA - Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, VICGroup
2013Absence-presence, twiceGalerie Imane Farès, ParisGroup
2013Martí Cormand - Formalizing their conceptJosee Bienvenu Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2013White Light/White Heat: Contemporary Artists & GlassThe Wallace Collection, LondonGroup
2013Signs / WordsSperone Westwater Gallery, LuganoGroup
2013Wall Works - Hamburger BahnhofMuseum für Gegenwart, BerlinGroup
2013Anni '70. Arte a RomaPalazzo delle Esposizioni, RomeGroup
2013Joseph Kosuth: Eine verstummte BibliothekKunstmuseums Thurgau, Warth, SwitzerlandSolo
20132013 Insomnia: Assorted, Illuminated, FixedSprueth Magers, Berlin, GermanySolo
2013Glasstress 2013 / 55th Venice Biennale of Art, Collateral EventBerengo Centre for Contemporary Art & Glas, VeniceGroup
2013Open Work in Latin America, New York & Beyond: Conceptualism Reconsidered, 1967–1978Hunter College, New York City, NYGroup
2012PaperMAMAC - Musee d´Art Moderne et d`Art Contemporain Nice, NiceGroup
2012Beuys Warhol Polke & Co - 40 Jahre Kunsthalle TübingenKunsthalle Tübingen, TübingenGroup
2012Positions on Conceptual ArtGalerie Rüdiger Schöttle, MunichGroup
2012Néon, Who’s afrmaid of red, yellow and blue ?La Maison Rouge, ParisGroup
2012Chambres d'AmisSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, GhentGroup
2012Flashing EternityMuseum of Modern Art Chicago (MoMAc), Chicago, ILGroup
2012Sammeln, was man liebtMuseum im Kulturspeicher, WürzburgGroup
2012FurnitureInvisible-Exports, New York City, NYGroup
2012ProteusContemporary Art Centre (CAC), VilniusGroup
2012Look Now: Modern and Contemporary Art from Private CollectionsMontclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJGroup
2012Arctic SummerMargo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2012Materializing "Six Years": Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual ArtBrooklyn Museum of Art, New York City, NYGroup
20129th Shanghai BiennaleShanghai Biennale, ShanghaiGroup
2012Die Sammlung Gunter Sachs. Von Max Ernst bis Andy WarholMuseum Villa Stuck, MunichGroup
2012The Wake (An arrangement of references with all the appearance of autonomyKuad Gallery, Istanbul, TurkeySolo
2012Freud, Wittgenstein, MusilCastelli Gallery, New YorkSolo
2012International Beckett FestivalEnniskillen, IrelandSolo
2012(Waiting for - ) Texts for Nothing’ Samuel Beckett, in Play, Happy DaysEnniskillenSolo
2011The Mind’s Image of Itself #3' a play of architecture and the mindSprüth, Magers, London, EnglandSolo
2011Sculpture In So Many Words: Text Pieces 1960-75ZieherSmith, New York City, NYGroup
2011‘(Waiting for-) Texts for Nothing’ Samuel Beckett, in playEine GeschichteSolo
2011des Installationen, 1965-2010Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
2011‘(Waiting for-) Texts for Nothing’ Samuel Beckett, in playSean Kelly New York, NYSolo
2011The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the AlbrightKnox Art Gallery - Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NYGroup
2011In DeedCerificates of Authenticity in ArtFondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, VeniceGroup
2011Arte Povera InternationalCastello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, TurinGroup
2011Rectangle and Square“ – Von Picasso bis Judd, Erwerbungen der Rupf-StiftungKunstmuseum Bern, BernGroup
2011In Deed: Certificates of Authenticity in ArtDe Vleeshal, MiddelburgGroup
2011Play Time - Œuvres de la collection KlosterfeldeL.A.C. - Lieu d'Art Contemporaine, SigeanGroup
2011MMK 1991-2011: 20 Jahre GegenwartMuseum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt/MainGroup
2011Spatial Constructs: The Gift of Amy and David Niles in ContextStanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso, TXGroup
2011Thirty are better than oneGalerie Tanit, MunichGroup
2011Eu Podia Fazer istoEspaço Atmosferas, LisbonGroup
2011Police !Galerie Natalie Seroussi, ParisGroup
2011Volume CollectionMMSU - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Rijeka, RijekaGroup
2011MAPPA MUNDIBerardo Museum - Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, LisbonGroup
2010PortraitThomas Solomon Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2010Things evoke feelingsCentre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, WarsawGroup
2010HumanMAMAC - Musee d´Art Moderne et d`Art Contemporain Nice, NiceGroup
2010Beauty is DiamondLaleh June Galerie, BaselGroup
2010CONCEPT 70Hohenthal und Bergen, BerlinGroup
2010Works from the Gallery CollectionCarl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, OHGroup
2010S.M.S.: An Archive of the 60sUAM - University Art Museum, Long Beach, CAGroup
2010All about wordsMulier Mulier Gallery, Knokke-HeistGroup
2010Konstellation 2Kunstmuseum des Kantons Thurgau, WarthGroup
2010‘(Waiting for-) Texts for Nothing’ Samuel Beckett, in playAustralian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, AustraliaSolo
2010‘Texts for Nothing’ Samuel Beckett, in playGalleria Lia Rumma, Milan, ItalySolo
2010Personal Structures: Time – Space – ExistenceGalerie Georg Kargl, Vienna, AustriaSolo
2010‘An Interpretation of This Title’: Nietzsche, Darwin and the Paradox of Content Anna, Schwartz Gallery, Sydney, AustraliaSolo
2010I Believe in Miracles - 10thanniversary of the Lambert CollectionCollection Lambert, AvignonGroup
2010Masterpieces : Kleinformate : Editionen : BücherGalerie Dr. Dorothea van der Koelen, MainzGroup
2010Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious in Everyday LifeScience Museum, LondonGroup
2010Just love meMUDAM - Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, LuxembourgGroup
201029° Bienal de São PauloBienal de Sao Paulo, São PauloGroup
2010Where Do We Go From Here? Selections from La Colección JumexCAC - Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OHGroup
2010Artists at Max’s Kansas City, 1965-1974Loretta Howard Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2010Stories from past futuresKisterem, BudapestGroup
2010Volume CollectionFondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, VeniceGroup
2010In Other WordsThe Goodman Gallery, JohannesburgGroup
2010Press Art - Sammlung Annette und Peter NobelMuseum der Moderne - MdM Mönchsberg, SalzburgGroup
2009SculptureMargo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2009Joseph Kosuth and Tsang Kin-WahPara/Site Art Space, Hong KongGroup
2009Glasstress 2009Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti, VeniceGroup
2009In-finitumMuseo Fortuny, VeniceGroup
2009Rethinking Art: Objects and Ideas from the 1960s and 70sAkron Art Museum, Akron, OHGroup
2009SilencesMusée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCS), StrasbourgGroup
20091968. Die Große UnschuldKunsthalle Bielefeld, BielefeldGroup
2009ElectricityLeo Castelli Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2009Collected VisionsBronx Museum of the Arts (BxMA), New York City, NYGroup
2009Reading Standing UpMargo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2009Joseph KosuthGalleria Six, Milan, ItalySolo
2009Joseph Kosuth ‘ni apparance ni illusion’Louvre Museum, Paris, FranceSolo
2009Joseph Kosuth 'An Interpretation of This Title' Nietzsche, Darwin and the Paradox of ContentTalbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland.Solo
2009L'arte è una parolaGalleria Il Ponte, FlorenceGroup
2009Paesaggi verbaliGalleria Cà di Frà, MilanGroup
20093rd AiM International BiennaleMarrakech Biennale, MarrakechGroup
2009Where Do We Go From Here? Selections from La Colección JumexBass Museum of Art, Miami, FLGroup
2009We interrupt this programMercer Union - A Centre For Contemporary Visual Art, Toronto, ONGroup
2009Sphères 2009Galleria Continua - Le Moulin, Boissy-le-ChâtelGroup
2009When ideas become form30 Jahre Galerie - Galerie Dr. Dorothea van der Koelen, MainzGroup
2009Inventar # 6Mehdi Chouakri, BerlinGroup
2009Zig ZagSperone Westwater Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2009Private ViewStädtische Galerie Villingen-Schwenningen, Villingen-SchwenningenGroup
2009Collector´s Choice IIZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, KarlsruheGroup
2009Young classicschapters from the contemporary art collection - Kröller-Müller Museum, OtterloGroup
2008neither appearance nor illusion’, A Selection of Early Works from the 1960's by Joseph KosuthSean Kelly Gallery, New York, New YorkSolo
2008Joseph Kosuth:‘This is how things are hidden from us'Galeria Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid, SpainSolo
2008Joseph Kosuth: Al Fin Creí Entender (Madrid)La Casa Encendida, Madrid, SpainSolo
2007Abad, Casa de Colon, El Museo CanarioThe Palms of Great Canary, The Canary Islands, Spain.Solo
20072007 Joseph Kosuth: Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio / The Language of Equilibrium, la Biennale di VeneziaMonastero Mekhitarista, Isola di San Lazzaro deglia Armeni, Venice, ItalySolo
2007Joseph Kosuth, ‘Terra Ultra IncognitaCentro Atlantico de Arte Moderno, San AntonioSolo
20062006 Joseph Kosuth, ‘a labyrinth into which I can venture (a play of works by guests and foreigners)Sean Kelly Gallery, New YorkSolo
2006Joseph KosuthCastello di Rivoli, Torino, ItalySolo
2006Joseph KosuthSprüth Magers Lee, London, EnglandSolo
2006Matière grise (show organized by Kosuth)Galerie Almine Rech, Paris, FranceSolo
2005The Painted Word: Language as Image in Modern ArtLafayette College,Williams Center for the Arts, Easton, PennsylvaniaSolo
2005Recognizable Differences & Andersen Self-Described [part of ‘H.C. Andersen: A Life World’], NikolajReykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik, IcelandSolo
2005Recognizable Differences & Andersen Self-Described [part of ‘H.C. Andersen: A Life World’], NikolajCopenhagen Contemporary Art Center, Copenhagen, DenmarkSolo
2005Joseph KosuthSprüth Magers, Munich, GermanySolo
200513 Locations of Meaning: Curated by Giacomo ZazaMolfetta, Torrione Passari, ItalySolo
2004Joseph Kosuth: Re-defining the Context of ArtVan Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The NetherlandsSolo
2004Joseph KosuthSean Kelly Gallery, New York, New York.Solo
2004Guests and Foreigners, Rules and MeaningsThe Greek-Hellenic Foundation, Athens, GreeceSolo
2003Joseph Kosuth: Located WorldLa Marrana Artambientale, La Spezia, ItalySolo
2002Place of Writing, Five Works by Joseph Kosuth, from 'One and Three Chairs' to 'Ex Libris, J.-F. Champollion (Figeac)Musée Champollion, Figeac, FranceSolo
2001Eight Locations of Meaning Collegium ArtisticumSarajevo, Bosnia-HerzogoveniaSolo
2000EssaysSean Kelly Gallery, New York, New YorkSolo
2000Guests and Foreigners, Rules and Meanings (Te Kore)Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand.Solo
1999Guests and Foreigners - Rossini in TurkeyBorusan Sanat Galerisi / Borusan Art Gallery, Istanbul (closed, 2006)Solo
1997Joseph Kosuth - Re-defining the Context of Art: 1968-1997: The Second Investigation and Public MediaMIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MASolo
1997Joseph Kosuth : New Installation and Survey 1965-1997Irish Museum of Modern Art - IMMA, DublinSolo
1995Joseph Kosuth - Editions The Past 10 YearsLeo Castelli Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
1993Joseph Kosuth: Double Reading: An Allegory of LimitsMargo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
1993Joseph Kosuth - The Thing in itselfLeo Castelli Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
1993A grammatical remarkWürttembergischer Kunstverein, StuttgartSolo
1990An Exhibition On, About, or Using Ludwig WittgensteinMargo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
1979Text / Context, NYLeo Castelli Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
1972ProtoinvestigationsLeo Castelli Gallery, New York City, NYSolo
1971The Eighth Investigation, Proposition ThreeLeo Castelli Gallery, New York City, NYSolo