Art about ideas has in recent years eclipsed the idea of art as a demonstration of skill. Arguably this completes the division between art and craft (2500 years ago the Greeks had one word for both). But this is not a theoretical account. This is a list of ways in which art can be made.

This catalog of modern art is mainly concerned with conceptual art and installation art of the past 40 years; painting and traditional sculpture are not covered except when there is some particular reason such as a distinctively novel approach or subject matter. Video art, photography and performance art have been omitted, as separate fields in their own right; the growing area of internet-based art has been left for further study; non-Western art should likewise have its own write-up. Nor is attention paid to the large number of artists still working in more traditional pictorial or sculptural genres using oil paints, acrylics, watercolors, clay, marble or plaster in the same ways they have been used for hundreds of years.

As for chronology, most of the art is from during or after the 1960s, a time which saw the birth of pop art, conceptualism and minimalism. However, earlier works (mainly from the Dadaist tradition and pranksters such as Yves Klein) that are crucial for an understanding of conceptualism and other modern art movements are included. Ordering is not significant.

Artists and artworks are indexed in the main by materials, rather than by art movement or interpretation. In common with this, no attempts at interpretation or explanation of the meaning or intention of the works are offered. There is a distinct bias towards British art, for which I apologise. Many of the artists are selected for being newsworthy (or to use another word, famous); for this, I may also choose to apologise.

Human body


Andres Serrano - "Piss Christ". A crucifix suspended in urine.

Helen Chadwick - "Piss Flowers". Bronzes cast from the holes formed by pissing in the snow; a collaboration between Chadwick and her husband David Notarius.


Chris Offili - The artist, of Haitian Catholic heritage, produced acclaimed paintings of the Virgin Mary daubed with elephant dung.


Marc Quinn - "Self". Quinn used nine pints of his own blood, frozen, to make a cast of his head.


Marc Quinn - Made a cast of his baby son Lucas's head using his frozen placenta.


Andy Goldsworthy - "Clay wall". A six metres high and twenty five metres long wall made from London clay, bound together with hair collected from local hairdressers.

Pubic hair:

Margaret Morgan - "Portrait of Sigmund Freud as Feminine Sexuality" (1993).


Marc Quinn - Exhibited a phial of his own DNA as a self portrait.

Naked body as brush:

Yves Klein - "Anthropometries". Klein covered models in blue paint, and dragged them across the canvas. This is either offensively sexist, or a commentary on the sexism of nude painting; however neither of these seem to have been Klein's intent. (Does this break my rule on not commenting on the works' meaning?)

Environmental and large-scale art

Natural materials:

Andy Goldsworthy - Wood, stone, clay, snow, ice and water, are the media used by this British artist, working generally out-of-doors, using materials found in nature. Much of his work is temporary, such as a tower of stones built at low tide and washed away at high tide, or a series of one-tonne snowballs left lying in different places around London one June. Other works of his are more long-lasting, like dry stone sheep corrals.


Cristo - Bulgarian landscape artist, wrapping buildings and other objects in plastic film, including the Reichstag in Berlin.


Michael Heizer - "Nine Nevada Depressions" (1968). Trenches curving and zigzagging over 520 miles.

Robert Smithson - "Spiral Jetty" (1970). 1500 feet long, 15 feet wide spiral of rock, running out into Great Salt Lake, Utah, and submerged most of the time.

Large-scale art:

Walter De Maria - "The Lightning Field" (1977). 400 steel poles over an area one mile by one kilometer.

Joseph Beuys - "7000 Oaks" (1982-1987). Seven thousand trees were planted around the city of Kassel in Germany.


Ian Hamilton Finlay - "Little Sparta". Finlay's garden in Lanarkshire, Scotland, is home to many of his sculptures, but is arguably a work of art in its own right.

Playing with the idea of the exhibition and artwork

Art strike:

The New York Art Strike Against War, Repression and Racism - They called for a one-day closure of galleries on May 22, 1970. Many galleries either closed for the day, or offered free admission.

Gustav Metzger - He called for a 3-year strike by artists in 1974. The 1990 art strike promoted by Stewart Home and others called for a similar three-year cessation of work by artists from January 1, 1990 onwards. Home, at least, complied.


Sol LeWitt - When you buy a work of his, you get instructions plus a certificate of authenticity, and hire a set of approved draftspersons to produce it. His works are called things like "Fifteen Part Drawing Using Four Colours and All Variations"

Selling empty space:

Yves Klein - "Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility" (1959). The always-dapper artworld rebel sold a number of pieces of immaterial space, i.e. nothing. The prices of the space varied, for no discernible reason. Upon purchase, the customer's receipt was ceremonially burnt, and half the money thrown in the River Seine. As a result, the purchaser had neither an artwork nor any proof of purchase. Klein also imposed a condition on reselling the work: that it should be for twice the original sum paid, although whether this was ever enforced is unknown.

Getting other people to make your work:

Mark Kostabi - American artist thinks up the ideas for some (but not all) of his work, but the actual execution is passed off to his assistants. Kostabi's greatest input is his signature, and the work is exhibited in some of the world's leading galleries under his name. He also writes books and an advice column, or at least someone else does.

Fake waste of money:

The Leeds 13 - A group of art students from the University of Leeds, England, pretended that they had spent their 1000 UKP grant given towards their third year art show on a holiday in Spain. They faked images of the holiday, not in sunny Spain, but at the seaside in Scarborough near Leeds. Their claims produced an uproar in a reactionary media eager to ridicule the nonsensical nature of modern art.

Exhibiting other people's work:

The Leeds 13 - Following their pretend holiday the previous year, this group of art students for their final degree show exhibited a collection of artworks by various artists including Rodin, Damien Hirst and Marcel Duchamp, alongside a number of works by lesser-known figures. Unlike many students, they did not even try to pass off the work as their own.


Empty room:

Martin Creed - "Lights Going On and Off in a Gallery" (2001). A playful minimalist installation, comprising an empty room with a lightbulb that flashes on and off. Creed won the Turner Prize in 2001 for this and other works.

Pile of bricks:

Carl Andre - "Equivalent VIII". One of the classics of minimalism, 120 pale sand-lime bricks arranged in a cuboid.

Glass of water:

Michael Craig-Martin - "An Oak Tree". A glass of water on a shelf; he maintained that calling it an oak tree made it one.

Single-color painting:

Canvases painted all over with a single color have a long history. Nineteenth century French humorist Alphonse Allais produced some works. Early in the twentieth century Russian artist Kazimir Malevich painted a series of white on white compositions including a white square on a white canvas (1918). Yves Klein was among many more recent artists to do the same, preferring blue.

Black square:

Kazimir Malevich - "Black Square" (1913). Oil on canvas, 106.2 x 106.5 cm (41 3/4 x 41 7/8 in). A black square on a white background, edges oriented to be horizontal and vertical. He also produced "Black Circle" the same year.

Readymades, Found objects and garbage


Mike Nelson - English artist shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2001, produces installations using found items and junk, the items selected to form a coherent space or to tell a story. Works include "Taylor" (1994), a raft which references the astronaut in Planet of the Apes, and "The Coral Reef" (2000), a labyrinthine network of shabby rooms.

Found objects:

Marcel Duchamp - "Fountain". A urinal. The first and greatest objet trouvé (found object) in modern art.

Casts of found objects and spaces around them:

Rachel Whiteread - British artist, has cast the interiors of rooms, buildings, staircases and wardrobes, and the space under a table. She has also made a number of casts of mattresses, an autopsy table, an empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, and other objects.

Refuse and decay:

Helen Chadwick - "Carcass". A glass container full of garbage and pieces of rotten animal carcasses. It sprang a leak and had to be removed from exhibition. See under animals for other work invoving dead animals.


Tracey Emin - "My Bed". A dirty bed adorned with used condoms and dirty knickers.

Industrial materials:

Richard Wilson - "20:50" (1987). A lake of sump oil, waist-high to visitors who walk along a jetty, admiring its reflective surface.

Richard Serra - Molten lead thrown against the walls of his studio.



Damien Hirst - "In and Out of Love" (1991) Butterflies hatch from cocoons placed above a radiator, and in a separate room more butterflies are embalmed on a canvas, covered in paint. In a similar work called "A Thousand Years", flies emerge from maggots and are zapped by an automatic insect killer.


Damien Hirst - The artist has exhibited a number of art works made up of from whole or sliced cows and sheep. "Away from the flock" is a sheep preserved in a tank of formadehyde; "Some Comfort Gained from the Acceptance of the Inherent Lies in Everything" is made from two cows cut into slices, pickled and arranged in an interleaved fashion facing in opposite directions.


Damien Hirst - "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" (1991) A tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde.

Sex with animals:

Helen Chadwick - "The Oval Court". Photographs of the artist, naked, in consort with the corpses of dead animals.

Toys and games


Jake and Dinos Chapman - The Chapman Brothers have exhibited horrifically disfigured plastic dolls, anatomical grotesques like congenitally deformed children. Made from fibreglass these models of children often have sexual organs in the middle of their faces. They have also exhibited dioramas of toy soldiers illustrating Goya's "Disasters of War", and more recently a huge diorama "Hell", depicting Nazi atrocities with thousands of little plastic dolls. Much of this work appears to be inspired by old masters like Hieronymous Bosch.

Damien Hirst - "Hymn" (1991). A huge replica of a plastic doll for teaching anatomy.

Balloon animals:

Jeff Koons - "Balloon Dog" (1995). Porcelain sculpture of a balloon animal. He has made a number of works on the theme, also using stainless steel (to mimic a mylar balloon) and fiberglass, including one dog measuring 129 x 149 x 47 inches.

Consequences Game (aka Exquisite Corpse):

This children's game, where each player draws a part of a picture and then folds down the paper to hide all but the edge, was popular with the surrealists. More recently, it has been used by artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman to create grotesque forms.


Engraved stone:

Ian Hamilton Finlay - The Scottish sculptor and poet has produced a large number of works in which short messages are carved into stone. These combine graphic design and poetry with the letter-carving skill of the stonemason (like tombstones). Examples include "UNDA", a set of stone tablets carved with various anagrams of the Latin word for wave together with the S-shaped, wave-like printers' transposition symbol.


Ed Ruscha - Pop artist produced "Liquid Words" paintings such as "Rancho" (1958) and "Electric" (1964). These depict a single word in stylized lettering like an advertizing sign (his earlier work had included landscape paintings of roadside architecture and road signs).


Simon Morley - "The Collected Works of George Orwell" (2000). A collection of paintings of the title pages of the first editions of Orwell's books, mainly white (painting the paper) with gray lettering (title, author, publisher), in acrylic, each 25 by 30 cm.

Mass media and pop culture

Screen prints:

Andy Warhol - Newspaper pictures (Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy) or mass-produced items (Campbells soup tins), reproduced using silk-screen printing, often a large number of times per painting, or series of paintings of the same subject.

Mickey Mouse:

John Keane - "Mickey Mouse at the Front". Official British war artist during the war in Kuwait against Saddam Hussein, produced a series of works showing the battlefield carnage amid the ruins of capitalist society. Many other artists have also depicted the Mouse, including Robert Rauschenberg.

Alexander Kosolapov - "Mickey Mondrian" (1985). The mouse reduced to a series of geometric shapes (even more reduced, being a cartoon anyway) in the style of abstract artist Piet Mondrian.


Roy Lichtenstein - Worked largely in the simple, bold style of comic book art, producing prints (serigraphy, lithography) with a restricted palette of bright colors, and thick black lines. Images include "Blam" (1962), "Girl at Piano" (1963), "Crak" (1964).

David Shrigley - An artist working on the boundary between fine art and comic illustration, his work is ironic and humorous.

Ceramic figurines:

Jeff Koons - The high priest of kitsch art has produced huge and highly kitsch brightly-painted ceramic sculptures of himself and his wife.


Peter Blake - Collection of mass-produced items with a nostalgic feel. Also responsible for the collage of faces on the cover of The Beatles' Sargeant Pepper album.

Ray Johnson - Worked on collages of cut up images of Elvis Presley and others in the 1950s.

Portraits of the famous:

Marcus Harvey - "Myra". A portrait of child-murderer Myra Hindley made up of children's handprints, 9 ft by 11 ft.

Salvador Dali - Fascinated by Adolf Hitler, he produced a number of portraits, including "The Enigma of Hitler" and "Hitler Masturbating" (viewed from behind, the Fuhrer on a chair surrounded by little horses in a snow-field. German painter George Grosz is among many other artists to paint Hitler, in "Cain, or Hitler in Hell" (1944).

Bernard Safran - "Portrait of Adolf Eichmann" (1962). Hitler's henchman, Eichmann painted naturalistically with subtle red flames around him and echoes of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" in the background.


Vandalised classic painting:

Marcel Duchamp - "L.H.O.O.Q.". The Mona Lisa with a moustache, its name a sexual pun in French: "Elle a chaud au cul". It arguably reveals that the Mona Lisa's face resembles that of a man, possibly Leonardo da Vinci's.

Unauthorised interaction with modern art:

Jian Jun Xi and Yuan Cai - "Two Naked Men Jump Into Tracey's Bed". Two artists danced and staged a pillow fight on Tracey Emin's installation "My Bed", which comprised an unmade bed surrounded by dirty underwear and used condoms. They did not have time to try her pants on, as they had hoped.


Jean-Michel Basquiat - Perhaps the most famous artist to move from vandalizing walls to gallery walls. Arguably, by its nature all true graffiti is anonymous and public, and graffiti as art can encompass words as well as pictures. See Circular Self Portrait in Green for examples.



Yves Klein - Created fire sculptures, and used a fire torch to burn canvases, creating a series of paintings.

Postal service:

The New York Correspondence School - Mail art movement founded by Ray Johnson, distributes artworks by post.

Kinetic mobiles:

Alexander Calder - He is credited with the invention of moving sculptures that revolved either due to motors or, in his later work, pushed by a slight breeze; subsequently these have become popular toys or ornaments for children. Naum Gabo, the Russian constructivist, made similar works a few years before.

Please msg or email (address on my profile page) me if you have additions; I'm more interested in forms not mentioned than in further examples using materials listed. There are a couple of works I'm particularly looking for: the artist(s) who claimed their exhibition would be held at a certain time in a gallery which was totally unaware of the exhibition (+ similar stunts with non-existent exhibitions); and artists who've worked in slogans painted directly on walls in a non-graffiti style. I think I've listed the most famous and important works, though. I could research this forever, but I hope it gives you enough ideas to be getting on with.

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