what is object art? Discover the magic of making art with everyday objects


“Object art”, have you ever heard of this term? If you still don’t know this artistic manifestation, this article has come to surprise you. Art is born from the need to express ourselves; therefore, there are no rules that limit us when we want to use our creativity .

If there are no rules in art, this means that we can use any object to create an artistic work, even the most everyday ones, such as, for example, a wheel or a urinal. Although it may seem hard to believe, there are works with materials that you would never associate with art and yet they have found a space within object art.

Precisely, by allowing us to create with everything we have around us, object art or object art invites us to question what are the real criteria that determine that a work is considered a piece of art .

In order for you to understand a little more about this topic, which may sound confusing at first, what do you think if we delve deeper into this concept that revolutionized the arts centuries ago? Join us to discover what is object art, what are its characteristics and who are the main artists of object art.

Make yourself comfortable and let’s get started!

how did object art come about?

Before defining what object art is, we believe it is important to delve a little into the background that led to the creation of this art form.

According to the TATE Modern, the name under which the British National Museum of Modern Art is known, the term object art began to take shape in 1912 when Pablo Picasso created the painting entitled “Still Life with a Chair Grille”, in which he included a real piece of a chair grille to create the portrait.

Years later, the French painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp took up the technique introduced by Picasso and gave it a totally new twist, as he created a series of works from objects that were not considered artistic, under the term “ready-made” or found art.

Specifically, in 1913, Duchamp created the first work of object art called “Bicycle Wheel”, which is simply an inverted bicycle wheel inserted inside a wooden bench; a work that, in the artist’s words, he had no concrete reason to create. Thus, the foundations of what would later be known as object art would be laid.

duchamp rueda de bicicleta arte objeto“Bicycle Wheel,” Marcel Duchamp. Image: Moove Magazine

what is object art?

After having delved a bit into the origins of object art, you know that it includes in its works objects that are not normally considered artistic material. But, can any object be transformed into art? what is object art in reality?

According to the National Museum of Fine Arts of Chile, object art can be defined as “the artistic work made from an object -or fragment of it-, which can be of natural or industrial origin”. Experts affirm that these pieces are not created by the artist, but by a third party.

Usually, object art pieces are found or purchased and acquire an artistic value by their modification, intervention or interaction with other materials that the artist decides to include.

So, the definition of object art refers to the art of intervening a common object of everyday life to transform it into something unique and exceptional with an artistic meaning. In this way, we can say that object art becomes relevant because of the meaning that the artist gives to the object he uses and not because of what it is in itself .

Following the steps of this artistic expression, we are all capable of making art with the objects we have at hand. It is even possible that you have already done it! If you don’t believe us, think back to your preschool art class, didn’t you ever use buttons, pasta or some other object to make art? If you answered yes, you participated in object art for kids.

However, making object art in an artistic sense is an almost poetic exercise, for, in order for an object to be transformed into art, an artist’s creative mind is essential, in addition to his or her creative skills.

cabeza de animal obra de arte objetual“Animal Head,” Henry Moore. Image: TATE

what is the difference between object art and conceptual art?

Well, now that you know what object art is, surely this concept reminds you of the artistic movement known as conceptual art, as they tend to share certain characteristics. In order for you to understand the difference between the two terms, let’s see what conceptual art is all about.

Basically, in this artistic movement, the central idea of a work of art is its main element, that is to say, the concept to be transmitted is imposed on the material realization. On the contrary, in object art, the object as such takes precedence, since the work itself is built from it.

However, in both object art and conceptual art, the object is used in a non-traditional way to express an idea that will be interpreted by the spectator.

Therefore, to understand how object art and conceptual art are related, instead of confronting both concepts, the correct thing to do is to understand that object art functions as a manifestation of conceptual art to question the standards established by classical art.

artista de arte objetual damien hirst“Mother and Child (Divided)”, Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. Image: TATE

what are the characteristics of object art?

If after having delved into what object art is, its concept has seemed interesting to you, you will surely want to make your own works of object art. Before getting down to work, you should know what this artistic manifestation comprises .

To do so, here are the main characteristics of object art:

1. It breaks with the patterns of traditional art

As you have been able to realize, object art broke with the guidelines of traditional art, which was limited to the use of canvas and other materials characteristic of the artistic expressions of the time.

Object art was born to question the classical artistic currents, which focused on following what was predefined centuries ago.

2. It uses common objects

Object art uses objects out of their usual context, with the intention of producing novel sensations in the spectator. It should be noted that these can be all kinds of pieces, from the most common to the rarest; everything will depend on what the artist wants to express.

3. Question beauty

In object art, the artist refutes the concept of beauty and looks for new meanings of beauty.

According to Duchamp, the main objective of object art was to question the whole concept of art and the worship of art, which had been the result of the works of certain artistic expressions that sought to emulate beauty in any of its forms.

4. Modifies the meaning of objects

Although object art is constructed from a common material, before being exhibited, the object must modify its meaning, many times, in an exaggerated or grotesque manner in order to awaken the viewer’s critical gaze and call the public to reflection.

artista objetual chileno guillermo nuñez“And you so alone, Ezra Pound!”, Guillermo Núñez. Image: Museum of Memory and Human Rights

who are the main artists of object art?

we get to the most interesting part of the article! After having discovered what object art is, you must have realized that this is a very particular artistic expression that, more than being explained in words, deserves to be seen.

So, get ready to discover who are the most important object art artists along with their main works, which revolutionized the scene years ago and are still a topic of conversation until today.

Best of all, in case you want to create your own works of object art, these examples of object art will be a good place to start.

1. Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he belonged to Dadaism, an avant-garde art movement, and we can consider him as the father of object art, as he was one of the first to revolutionize the idea of beauty by elevating the common object to the category of art.

For Duchamp, beauty could be in many places, since he affirmed that art is not seen with the eyes, but with the mind, and following this idea, in 1914 he introduced the ready-made, an art that consists of presenting common objects outside their environment as works of art.

Marcel Duchamp took an ironic view of traditional art, mocking tradition and talent, which, in his opinion, were meaningless, since he considered that any work exhibited in a museum would be considered art .

True to his sarcastic style, in 1917, the artist found no better way to question the classic and prove his point than by exhibiting a urinal in a museum, which he named “The Fountain”.among his best-remembered works of object art are also “Bicycle Wheel” and “Bottle Rack”.

“The Fountain,” Marcel Duchamp. Image: Moove Magazine

2. Robert Rauschenberg

Rauschenberg was an American painter who became one of the major representatives of Pop Art in his country. Although he was not an exponent as such of object art, his most recognized work has characteristic elements of this type of art.

Robert Rauschenberg created a series of works called Combines, made from non-traditional materials and objects combined in an innovative way. To better understand what the Combines are, think of them as collages that mix painting with sculpture.

Another well-known work that we can consider, in a way, as object art is “Riding Bikes”.

obra de arte objeto“Riding Bikes,” Robert Rauschenberg. Image: Flickr

3. Meret Oppenheim

Oppenheim is one of the artists of object art that cannot go unnoticed. She was one of the great figures of surrealist art, with a unique sense of humor and a great personality.

The German-born artist worked mostly with everyday materials, and her object art has a great discursive power that sought to give new connotations to pieces of everyday life .

can you imagine a tea set made of leather? Oppenheim created one of the most popular objects of surrealism, his famous “Fur Breakfast Set”. Work that is definitely one of the object art images you won’t be able to get out of your mind.

obra de arte objeto “Skin Breakfast Set,” Meret Oppenheim. Image: The Country

4. Francisco Brugnoli

Among the artists who stand out in object art, we also have Francisco Brugnoli, a Chilean object artist who has gained a lot of recognition nowadays.

His object art proposal has caught the attention of the artistic community, as Brugnoli questions social processes through his collages and objects with the aim that political and artistic discourse share a common ground .

Therefore, through a denouncing and nonconformist look, he investigates the contingent reality to capture it in his object art. His works include “Siempre gana público”, “Naturaleza azul”, “Los alimentos” and “No se confíe”.

“Siempre gana público” and “No se confíe”, Francisco Brugnoli. Image: Researchgate

5. Lila Dipp

She is another artist who works with everyday objects that is worth getting to know. This Mexican artist creates artistic pieces with objects that tell a story and produce sensations in the viewer that invite reflection.

Dipp defines her work as follows:

“My goal is to find a completely different meaning to the everyday of things. The origin of my pieces comes when it wants to and sometimes by the most unsuspected ways. This style consists of changing the essence of things without letting them be themselves”.

Lila Dipp makes object art an enriching experience from the moment of its conception. For her, it is a pleasure to choose, manipulate and assemble objects in order to obtain a poetic or suggestive result with a challenging, imaginative and new spirit.

“Comet”, “Untitled” and “Back to Paradise”, Lila Dipp. Image: Valrluz

6. Edgar Artis

Edgar Artis is not an object art artist as such, but he has become popular on Instagram for his ingenious way of creating dress designs with common objects such as paper clips, pencils or food.

This Armenian illustrator creatively uses everyday objects to complete his sketches. He simply places the items on top of the drawing, proving that you can make object art with anything and without difficulty, below, we leave you with a work by the artist made with noodles.

obra de arte objetualUntitled work, Edgar Artis. Image: Diario de Sevilla

how to make object art?

what do you think about the examples of object art? Ingenious, don’t you think? If object art artists have changed your way of looking at art and you want to dabble in this artistic expression, your time has come.

First, ask yourself why you want to make object art and what you can do with it. If you still don’t know where to start, here are some words from Belén Rodríguez Traverso, teacher of the art course to awaken creativity:

“With art you can do magic and create dream worlds, worlds that you have going around in your head and that you can capture on a sheet of paper. You can transform elements of reality according to how you like them and how you want them. It is even possible to combine two elements that seem incommunicable or incompatible”.

As our expert says, with art everything is possible, so if you want to make object art with things from home, nothing can stop you. The only thing you need is a strong and concrete idea that can lead to reflection to whoever sees it. Then, analyze what you want to say, what you want to express, and let yourself go.

All right, now you know what object art is, what are its characteristics and who are its main representatives. As you have seen, object art has no limits and allows you to play with all the elements you have around to convey a powerful message. So, are you ready to revolutionize the arts with extraordinary pieces?

good luck!

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