Who’s Your Dada? That’s Anti-Art, Baby!


“Dada was designed to be ghost-like and short-lived. . . Self-immolation was written into Dada’s very DNA, its main aesthetic tenant its brevity and self-destructiveness. . . Dada was a fully-realized, soulless expression of Dionysian excess. A howl of existential despair. And a casualty of war.” – Peter Fleming, The Hamilton Spectator.

The more I deal with our burgeoning art business, the more I learn about art history and movements, particularly in the last 150 years. I am constantly encountering new words that represent genres of which I have never heard. The most elusive term to date is Dadaism. Please note, that when Ron saw me researching the topic before putting words on screen, he exclaimed, “You’re not going to write about Dadaism, are you?” Which, of course, cemented the deal. Counter to the prevailing understanding of art as attractive, the Dada movement was meant to be unappealing. Mostly a compilation of collage, trash and discarded subject matter, the works were meant to be chaotic and riotous, much like the anarchy that ensued after many of the works were presented to the public. In 1918 The Dada Club was founded in Berlin when, in reaction to the universal upheaval and international war raging all around them, an Austrian artist, Raoul Hausmann, and a German, Johannes Baader, joined Richard Huelsenbeck , a German psychoanalyst. The artists of the Dada movement were appalled by the metamorphic world in which they lived. Hans Richter, an artist, filmmaker and an interpreter of Dada, called Dada “anti-art” unconcerned with aesthetics. Hugo Ball, an artist and a poet, called it “…an opportunity for the true perception of and criticism of the times we live in.”  And finally, a modern day word from Fred S. Kleiner for the American Art News magazine in 2006: “Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man.”
So it appears that the Dada movement was a brief and violent outcry from the creative forums of the day. It was short-lived and very unpopular; nevertheless, a significant statement from the art world, which we have seen, time and again, that we cannot live without.

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