Art Term

Ephemeral art

Ephemeral art is art that only lasts for a short amount of time

Anya Gallaccio, ‘preserve ‘beauty’’ 1991–2003
Anya Gallaccio
preserve ‘beauty’ 1991–2003
Tate
© Anya Gallaccio, courtesy Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York

There are many forms of ephemeral art, from sculpture to performance, but the term is usually used to describe a work of art that only occurs once, like a happening, and cannot be embodied in any lasting object to be shown in a museum or gallery.

Ephemeral art first came to prominence in the 1960s with the Fluxus group, when artists like Joseph Beuys were interested in creating works of art that existed outside the gallery and museum structure and had no financial worth. Happenings, performances and sound sculptures were all part of ephemeral art, as were flyers and cheap mass-produced items that carried subversive messages out into the world.

Related terms and concepts

Performance art

Artworks that are created through actions performed by the artist or other participants, which may be live or recorded, spontaneous ...

Happening

Happenings were theatrical events created by artists in the late 1950s and early 1960s

Sound art

Art which uses sound both as its medium (what it is made out of) and as its subject (what it ...

Fluxus

Fluxus is an international avant-garde collective or network of artists and composers founded in the1960s and still continuing today

Selected artists in the collection

Selected artworks in the collection