Has the Avant-garde Died?

András Kappanyos

The study offers a new perspective on a frequently researched question of the supposed end of the Avant-guards. He mentions various researches on this issue to finally disagree with Peter Bürger who claims the end of the Avant-guards as inevitable consequence of their basic structure. Bürger wants to discredit the whole "neo" Avant-garde as a rootless, meaningless phenomenon and critisizes Adorno for not distinguishing between between faddish (arbitrary) and historically necessary newness. What Bürger ignores here is the historical fact that Pop Art and its heirs (especially Fluxus)reflect very consciously this difference, and this in itself makes them legitimate. Bürger attributes to Avant-garde the intention of destroying the institutional system of arts and holds the whole Avant-garde a failure as it failed to fulfil this aim. The general acceptance ofDuchamp's "Fountain" as a work of art is for Bürger a proof of the Avant-garde's fall, or even of its failure.

However, this is possible to interpret also as its success, because even Duchamp never wanted to destroy these institutions altogether: he wanted to subvert them. As he managed to make them accept a urinal as a work of art, he certainly achieved his goal to change the institutions of art. Moreover, by no means is the Duchamp’s radical conception of anti-art the only incarnation of Avant-guards. The author mentions dadaists, expressionists and others. Finally he recognizes the acceptance of Duchamp’s urinal as the success of subversion, the chief goal of Avant’guard movements, claiming that the refusal of it would have meant that „we stay with a 19th century concept of art plus an ordinary urinal that remains outside the history of art“.

Keywords: Avant-garde. Surrealism. Instiutions. Anti-art.