NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Most Important Works of Art of the Twentieth Century

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 12058
Issued in February 2006
NBER Program(s):   LS   PR

A survey of art history textbooks identifies and ranks the eight most important works of the 20th century. The most important painting of the century was Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, executed by Picasso at the age of 26, which began the development of Cubism. Among the other seven works, a collage, an earthwork, and a ready-made all represent new genres that had not existed at the start of the century. All eight works were made by conceptual artists, at a median age of just 32. The results underline the importance of young conceptual innovators, who made radical departures from existing conventions, in the advanced art of the century. Four of the eight works were made by Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, and this highlights the importance of the versatile conceptual innovators who became a prominent feature of twentieth-century art.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12058

Published: The Most Important Works of Art of the Twentieth Century, David W. Galenson. in Conceptual Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Art, Galenson. 2009

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