Happenings

Happenings were the forerunners of performance art and in turn emerged from the theatrical elements of dada and surrealism. The name was first used by the American artist Allan Kaprow in the title of his 1959 work 18 Happenings in 6 Parts which took place on six days, 4–10 October 1959 at the Reuben Gallery, New York.

Happenings typically took place in an environment or installation created within the gallery and involved light, sound, slide projections and an element of spectator participation. They proliferated through the 1960s but gave way to performance art in which the focus was increasingly on the actions of the artist. A detailed account of early happenings can be found in Michael Kirby’s 1965 book, Happenings.

Foreground, from left, Patty Oldenburg (now Patty Mucha), Lucas Samaras and Claes Oldenburg (in green pants) in “Sports” in 1962. The audience for this Happening included Andy Warhol, background center, and John Chamberlain (leaning on pillar).CreditClaes Oldenburg, All Rights Reserved Robert R. McElroy/VAGA, New York; courtesy of Oldenburg van Bruggen Studio

Foreground, from left, Patty Oldenburg (now Patty Mucha), Lucas Samaras and Claes Oldenburg (in green pants) in “Sports” in 1962. The audience for this Happening included Andy Warhol, background center, and John Chamberlain (leaning on pillar).CreditClaes Oldenburg, All Rights Reserved Robert R. McElroy/VAGA, New York; courtesy of Oldenburg van Bruggen Studio

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