Work / Art

100 years of Dada: an unpublished project about the subversive art movement finally realised

100 years ago Tristan Tzara and his Dada cohorts took art off the wall and showed it could be anything from a performance to a page in a magazine. Dada – the name of which is said to have either originated from the French dictionary or a brand of Swiss shampoo – was the quintessential anti-art movement, born in Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire in 1916. After centuries of painting and classical-themed sculpture came the first performance to bill itself as art: a bewildering and wholly alien mix of vaudeville, poetry written in three languages, riding crops, monocles and dance. From here, against political backdrop of war, artists like Hugo Ball and Jean Arp and Tzara were the first, or at least the most prominent figures to embrace the idea of art as protest and reject the idea of art as commodity – concepts that changed modern art entirely.

Publishing was an essential part of Dadaist ongoings, and homespun art and literary journals with radical design elements were all part of a campaign to spread Dada ideas like art propaganda. For what was slated to be his most ambitious project, the limelight-seeking Tzara invited more than 50 artists from ten counties to submit artworks that ranged from self-portraits, drawings, and book layouts for his planned but ultimately unpublished Dadaglobe.

For the centenary of the movement, curator Adrian Sudhalter has spent five years tracking down all the volume’s contents, now scattered around the world. They have been reassembled for an exhibition at Kunsthaus Zurich and the accompanying book, Dadaglobe Reconstructed, both of which comprise photomontages and collages, book designs, essays and self-portraits and counts contributions from Hans Arp, André Breton, Max Ernst, Hannah Höch.

Dadaglobe Reconstructed is on show at Kunsthaus Zurich until 1 May before it opens at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in June.


Francis Picabia: Tableau Rastadada, 1920. © 2016 ProLitteris, Zurich


Front of the Dadaglobe request letter from Tristan Tzara, Francis Picabia, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes and Walter Serner to Alfred Vagts, 1920. Archivio Lafuente


Max Ernst: Chinesische Nachtigall, 1920. © 2016 ProLitteris, Zurich


John Heartfield: Double portrait of Baader and Hausmann, c. 1919/20. Kunsthaus Zürich, © 2015 ProLitteris, Zurich


Raoul Hausmann: P, ca 1920-1921. © 2016 ProLitteris, Zurich


Erwin Blumenfeld: Bloomfield, President-Dada-Chaplinist, 1921. Kunsthaus Zürich, © Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Johannes Baargeld: Typische Vertikalklitterung als Darstellung des Dada Baargeld, 1920. Kunsthaus Zürich


Hannah Höch: Bedrohung auf der grünen Wiese, c. 1920. Kunsthaus Zürich, © 2015 ProLitteris, Zurich


Johannes Baargeld: Venus beim Spiel der Könige,1920. Kunsthaus Zürich


Hans Arp, Max Ernst and Tristan Tzara: Postcard to Paul Eluard, 1921. Kunsthaus Zürich, © 2015 ProLitteris, Zurich / Estate of Tristan Tzara