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Dada

Introduction

Source: Oxford University Press

Artistic and literary movement launched in Zurich in 1916 but shared by independent groups in New York, Berlin, Paris and elsewhere. The Dadaists channelled their revulsion at World War I into an indictment of the nationalist and materialist values that had brought it about. They were united not by a common style but by a rejection of conventions in art and thought, seeking through their unorthodox techniques, performances and provocations to shock society into self-awareness. The name Dada itself was typical of the movement’s anti-rationalism. Various members of the Zurich group are credited with the invention of the name; according to one account it was selected by the insertion of a knife into a dictionary, and was retained for its multilingual, childish and nonsensical connotations. The Zurich group was formed around the poets hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, tristan Tzara and richard Huelsenbeck, and the painters Hans Arp, marcel Janco and hans Richter. The term was subsequently adopted in New York by the group that had formed around Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Marius de Zayas (1880–1961) and Man Ray. The largest of several German groups was formed in Berlin by Huelsenbeck with john Heartfield, raoul Hausmann, hannah Höch and George Grosz. As well as important centres elsewhere (Barcelona, Cologne and Hannover), a prominent post-war Parisian group was promoted by Tzara, Picabia and André Breton. This disintegrated acrimoniously in 1922–3, although further Dada activities continued among those unwilling to join Surrealism in 1924.

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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