Key Dates: 1916-1920
An international movement among European artists and writers between 1915 and 1922, characterised by a spirit of anarchic revolt. Dada revelled in absurdity, and emphasised the role of the unpredictable in artistic creation.
It began in Zürich with the French poet Tristan Tzara thrusting a penknife into the pages of a dictionary to randomly find a name for the movement. This act in itself displays the importance of chance in Dada art. Irreverence was another key feature: in one of Dada’s most notorious exhibitions, organised by Max Ernst, axes were provided for visitors to smash the works on show.
While perhaps seeming flippant on the surface, the Dada artists were actually fuelled by disillusionment and moral outrage at the unprecedented carnage of World War One, and the ultimate aim of the movement was to shock people out of complacency.
Among the leading Dadaists were Marcel Duchamp (whose Mona Lisa adorned with moustache and goatee is a Dada classic), George Grosz, Otto Dix, Hans Richter and Jean Arp. The movement had a strong influence on Pop Art, which was sometimes called neo-Dada.