Under Control: Sol LeWitt and the Market for Conceptual Art


  • Martin Hartung Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zurich




Art market, conceptual art


In April 1972, one year before his accidental death, Robert Smithson cautioned: “The artist isn’t in control of his value.” He did not seem to speak for Sol LeWitt, who emphasized the transformation of the traditional production conditions of an artwork by promoting the idea in favor of its execution in his Paragraphs on Conceptual Art (1967). Moreover, the artist challenged the sale conditions of artworks through offering certificates and instructions in an art market largely dominated by unique objects. The essay tackles the critical market success of LeWitt’s series of Wall Drawings within a time span of nearly twenty years, between 1968 and 1987, by tracking the myth of conceptual art’s negation of the artwork as commodity within a system adjusting to capitalist modes of production. 

Author Biography

Martin Hartung, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, ETH Zurich

Martin Hartung has been a doctoral fellow at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture at ETH Zurich since January 2014. His research focuses on the exhibition history of architectural projects in the art market. From January until June 2016, he was a Visting Scholar at Columbia University in New York. He received a Collection Research Grant from the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal in 2014. After completing his studies of art history, anthropology, and theology at Martin-Luther-University in Halle-Wittenberg in 2009, he worked as Assistant Curator at Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, as Scientific Assistant at ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, and as Curatorial Assistant at the Department of Media and Performance Art at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Martin is a member of the Editorial Board for the Art Market Dictionary (AMD) at the publishing house De Gruyter.




How to Cite

Hartung, M. (2018). Under Control: Sol LeWitt and the Market for Conceptual Art. Journal for Art Market Studies, 2(4). https://doi.org/10.23690/jams.v2i4.49