Term created by curator Nicholas Bourriaud in the 1990s to describe the tendency he noticed in fine art practice to make art based on, or inspired by, human relations and their social context

1 of 2
  • Gillian Wearing OBE, ''I'm desperate'' 1992-3

    Gillian Wearing OBE
    'I'm desperate' 1992-3
    Colour photograph on paper
    frame: 1325 x 925 x 45 mm support: 1190 x 790 mm
    Purchased 2000 Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley/ Interim Art, London

    View the main page for this artwork

  • Philippe Parreno, '6.00 PM' 2000-6

    Philippe Parreno
    6.00 PM 2000-6
    Carpet
    Overall display dimensions variable
    Purchased using funds provided by the 2006 Outset / Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection 2007 Philippe Parreno, courtesy Esther Schipper, Berlin

    View the main page for this artwork

The French curator Nicholas Bourriaud published a book called Relational Aesthetics in 1998 in which he defined the term as ‘a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space’. He saw artists as facilitators rather than makers and regarded art as information exchanged between the artist and the viewers. The artist, in this sense, gives audiences access to power and the means to change the world.

Bourriaud cited the art of Gillian Wearing, Philippe Parreno, Douglas Gordon and Liam Gillick as artists who work to this agenda.