Dissertation abstract: MA in Art History, 2015

How Do Selected Art Historians, Art Critics and Art Philosophers Explain Pierre Huyghe’s Work as ‘Art’?


The dissertation places French conceptual artist Pierre Huyghe (born 1962) in an art history context that has as its background contemporary art as enabled by the work of Marcel Duchamp. The dissertation recognises that Huyghe’s work has inherited from the 1960s phenomenon identified by Arthur C. Danto whereby almost anything can be called art. However, there is evidence that Huyghe has not inherited from the Duchampian tradition, as his contemporary Damien Hirst has. The dissertation submits that the art institution made up of art critics, art philosophers and art historians within which Huyghe works regards Duchamp’s art as a central phenomenon in art history. However, this institutional line is something which Huyghe sets out to work against, and as a result, his particular conceptual art requires the backing of a particular kind of art writing, which rejects the art theory rhetoric and discourse found, for example, in catalogues accompanying exhibitions by Damien Hirst. The dissertation notes that Huyghe sets out to disrupt the traditional museum context and applies the theory of Michel Foucault and Mikhail Bakthin, among others, in order to do so. As such his artwork appears particularly complex and may seem opaque to recipients of his art who are unware of his works’ conceptual background. As a result, the works under examination in the dissertation require the backing of rather intellectualised texts if they are going to be comprehended fully according to Huyghe’s intentions.