Joseph Kosuth

Five Words in Green Neon

Not on view



Neon tubing

Overall: 62 1/8 × 80 5/8 × 6in. (157.8 × 204.8 × 15.2 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Leonard A. Lauder

Rights and reproductions
©Joseph Kosuth/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


In 1969, Joseph Kosuth published the first part of his three-part manifesto “Art After Philosophy” in a London journal and instantly became a leading theorist and practitioner of Conceptual art. “Being an artist now,” he wrote, “means to question the nature of art.” According to Kosuth, traditional art forms such as painting would only summon old-fashioned considerations of aesthetic value or taste. Art needed to define itself anew by abandoning conventional means of expression. Five Words in Green Neon anticipates Kosuth’s written manifesto by a few years but clearly reflects its assertion that Conceptual art is based “on the understanding of the linguistic nature of all art propositions.” The work, comprising only the words of the title constructed in green neon tubing, makes language its content by collapsing description and image into each other. Five Words in Green Neon is not only the title of the object, but all that we see. Art, Kosuth suggests, does not reside in the object itself, but in our ideas about the object.