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Movements, Styles, and Tendencies Installation Art

Installation Art

Installation Art Collage

Started: 1970s

"The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible."

Allan Kaprow Signature


Installation art is a term generally used to describe artwork located in three-dimensional interior space as the word "install" means putting something inside of something else. It is often site-specific - designed to have a particular relationship, whether temporary or permanent, with its spatial environment on an architectural, conceptual, or social level. It also creates a high level of intimacy between itself and the viewer as it exists not as a precious object to be merely looked at but as a presence within the overall context of its container whether that is a building, museum, or designated room. Artworks are meant to evoke a mood or a feeling, and as such ask for a commitment from the viewer. The movement remains separate from its similar forms such as Land art, Intervention art, and Public art yet there are often overlaps between them. The ideas behind a piece of Installation art, and the responses it elicits, tend to be more important than the quality of its medium or technical merit. Artists champion this genre for its potential to transform the art world by surprising audiences and engaging viewers in new ways.

Key Ideas

Installation art champions a shift in focus from what art visually represents to what it communicates. Installation artists are less focused on presenting an aesthetically pleasing object to viewers as they are enfolding that viewer into an environment or set of systems of their own creation. Tweaking the subjective perception of the viewer is the artist's desired outcome. Pieces belonging to this movement resonate with our own human experiences - like us they exist within, and are always in conversation with, their lived environments.
Installation artists are preoccupied with making art a less isolated concept - by installing work beyond the galleries and museums and by using more utilitarian components such as found objects, industrial and everyday items, commonplace materials, and technologies of the populous. This movement has broadened the scope of what qualifies as artwork.
Because Installation art is especially difficult to collect and sell, this movement pushes against the commodification of art, thereby defying the traditional mechanisms used to determine the value of artworks.
Attempts to sell installations have raised questions about the process of dismantling and reinstalling work that was conceived for a particular location, and how that might or might not decrease the original meaning and value. It has also provoked dialogue within the art and archival communities about whether or not a temporary piece might be reconstructed and sold in the guise of its original, or whether a non-permanent piece may be recreated ad infinitum to perpetuate its existence.
Installation Art Image


Installation art did not arise from a particular collective impetus, or an organized intention. Rather, it arose organically from a lineage of conceptual, theatrical, site, and time specific ventures by various artists from within multiple movements. Installation art's roots are often traced back to the great Conceptual artists like Marcel Duchamp, the first to place a mundane toilet seat into the "fine art" setting in all of its literal plainness, to be considered in an out-of-context setting. Duchamp's "readymades" thus became precursors to this genre alongside other early influencers like the avant-garde Dadaists, who were the first Conceptual artists who chose to focus on making works that generated questions rather than crafting aesthetically pleasing objects. German artist Kurt Schwitters with his anti-commerce Merz objects-from-everyday-life collages and El Lissitzky with his Proun paintings that were a radical re-conception of space and material expressed early Installation art concerns along with notes of Spatialism - a movement that championed a synthesis of sound, sight, space, motion, and time into new forms of art. All of these prior efforts alongside inspiration from the theater - specifically seen in Performance art legends such as the Gutai group from Japan, who staged large-scale multimedia environments, coalesced into the birth of Installation art.

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