First used in relation to the cultural phenomenon of the 1960s and early 1970s where groups of artists, writers and other creatives and thinkers were regarded as existing outside or on the fringes of popular culture

Underground art is exemplified in what was called the underground press, magazines like Oz, International Times, East Village OtherandThe San Francisco Oracle and in the comix of West Coast America. Its precursors were the Beat Generation and the Paris Existentialists.

These days the term underground art is used to describe a subculture of art, like graffiti art or comic strip art. Since the late 1990s the internet has become a forum for underground art thanks to its ability to communicate with a wide audience for free and without the support of an art establishment.