When something is ahead of its time, it’s avant-garde. Vincent van Gogh’s work was avant-garde.

The “original” avant-garde was during the period of 1830 to 1939, but the term avant-garde is used to describe art today that’s daringly innovative, pushes boundaries, breaks the rules—and often rebells about the status quo. It’s not in line with the establishment.

Where does the term come from?

It is believed that Henri de Saint-Simon coined and popularized the term when writing in 1825:

We artists will serve you as an avant-garde, the power of the arts is most immediate: when we want to spread new ideas we inscribe them on marble or canvas. What a magnificent destiny for the arts is that of exercising a positive power over society, a true priestly function and of marching in the van [i.e. vanguard] of all the intellectual faculties!

Andy Warhol was avant-garde in the sixties. Jean-Michel Basquiat was avant-garde during his lifetime. Piero Manzoni’s can’s of “artist’s shit” (which were literally cans that contained the shit of the artist) were avant-garde. As you guess it, avant-garde is often that which divides, elicits strong reactions, and the subject of much debate around whether it actually is art.






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