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Encyclopedia > Avant garde
A work similar to Marcel Duchamp's Fountain

Avant garde (written avant-garde) is a French phrase, one of many French phrases used by English speakers. It is sometimes used to refer to people or actions that are novel or experimental, particularly with respect to the arts and culture.

Avant garde corresponds with the English word vanguard. Both are derived from the widespread military practice of deploying an Advanced Guard, a small troop of highly-skilled soldiers which would explore terrain ahead of a large advancing army and plot the course the army would follow. The concept was adopted as a metaphor for the work done by small bands of intellectuals and artists as they open pathways through new cultural or political terrain, for the mass of society to follow.

The official birthday of the Avant Garde is May 17, 1863, the opening of the Salon des Refus s, in Paris, organized by painters who had been refused at the annual Salon of officially sanctioned "academic" art. Later Salon des Refus s were held in 1874, 1875 and 1886. By 1881, the French government withdrew its support from the official Salons, which continued anyway.

The avant garde was originally identified with the promotion of social progress: seeing the group or individual so described as the pioneer of a social reform movement. Over time the term has also come to be associated with movements concerned with "art for art's sake", concerned primarily with expanding the frontiers of aesthetic experience, rather than with wider social reform. The concept of an elite band of pioneers has also been seen by many as elitist.

By some assessments, avant garde art would include street art, for example Graffiti.

Surrealism claims to have transcended the "avant-garde".

Examples of avant garde

See also



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