A widespread movement from the mid-1960s through the 1970s, Conceptual art emphasized the artist's thinking, making any activity or thought a work of art without the necessity of translating it into physical form. The term gained currency after the publication in the summer 1967 issue of Artforum of the Minimal artist Sol Lewitt's article ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.’ This dealt with the ‘primary structures’ of Robert Morris, simple polyhedrons which could be ‘visualized’ from any point of view.
In its broadest sense, Conceptual art can be traced back to the primitive artist who included the backbone in his drawing of a fish because he ‘knew’ it was there, even though it was outwardly invisible. The Renaissance, with its concern for accurate depiction, could be said to have firmly placed the emphasis on the perceptual rather than the conceptual.
From: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, Michael Clarke, Deborah Clarke. © 2012 Oxford University Press (used with permission)