‘Contemporary Classicism’ Copy of a Copy: Appropriating Classical Statues as Conceptual Readymades


  • Hallie Meredith Washington State University
  • Sarah Barnett Washington State University




Conceptual readymades – a contemporary artist’s use of a classical work selected as a key point of reference taken out of time – have developed in recent years as part of contemporary art’s appropriation of Greco-Roman statuary. This investigation argues that a contemporary artist’s use of the classical does not represent ‘copies’ but cultural readymades. Contemporary digital and sculptural work foregrounding the classical sheds light on the parallel phenomenon whereby Roman re-interpretations of Greek sculpture may have been equivalent to contemporary classicism. Contemporary case studies featuring digital media, generative art, and sculpture are approached both from the perspective of what they can reveal about contemporary art’s use of the classical and what contemporary art’s use of classical sculpture can suggest about Roman reinterpretations as cultural readymades. Remade as part of contemporary art, classical sculpture is uniquely positioned as an accessible point of reference with which to comment on our own time by concurrently reframing the past.