Dada: The Anti-Art Movement

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11685

A mustache on the Mona Lisa? A nonsensical sound poem performed for half an hour? Collages that defy logic? This is the wonderful madness of Dada, a rebellious movement in art. Try your hand at Dada!


Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What would you think of an artist who copied the Mona Lisa, only added a mustache and beard, and then called it his own? What would you make of an artist who accidentally dropped a pane of glass he'd been working on down the stairs, only to declare the shattered work, "completed?" This is the madness of Dada, one of the most exciting art movements of the 20th century.

If you go to a big art museum and tour the galleries, it can feel like art is a very, very serious thing.

Art can indeed be serious business, with art by even mid-range artists fetching hundreds or thousands of dollars. A work by Pablo Picasso, admittedly one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, sold for over $60 million in 2016!

So imagine if a group of crazy, mirth-filled rabble-rousers took over the art world and replaced all that seriousness with play. That is what Dada was all about. They found themselves in a world that had very little to laugh about — the era of the first World War. It had become known as “the war to end all wars” because of the unprecedented killing and destruction that it brought. Art, or rather “anti-art” as they preferred, could change the corrupt values that caused that terrible war in the first place.

Learn more about the movement known as Dada by watching The Nonsensical Art of Dada | Dadaism | LittleArtTalks. As you watch and experience some of the ideals of Dada, write down information and ideas to answer the following questions:

  • What were the basic principles and goals of Dada?
  • Who were some of the key figures of the movement?
  • What was the relationship between the war and Dada?

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Share your conclusions with your parent or teacher, then reflect on the following questions and discuss:

  • What power does art have to change society?
  • Should artists aim to change society, or is their role to simply create beautiful works? What makes you think so?
  • How are people using art or music to change public opinions or values today?

Now you know a little bit of the history and goals of this fascinating movement. Our Dada friends would not be happy if you got too concerned with history and ideas, though. They would want you to dive right into the art, so that is exactly what you are going to do in the next section!

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