Ten Best Performance Art Pieces of All Time

By | January 3, 2014

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Performance art, unlike performing arts, is not a play, symphony, or dance. It involves a group or individual artist becoming part of the art. Because of this it lies outside of mainstream definitions and understanding of art.

Yet, because of this, it also makes for notable and memorable art that often has a profound impact because the performers involvement help create a dramatic statement. It became popularized in the 60s and 70s and is still an effective means of art communication today.


Best and Most Recognized Performance Art in US – Blue Man Group
Performance art may be most easily understood by Westerners by thinking of something like the Blue Man Group. While the Blue Man Group are performing artists, they also become a part of their artistry. They all appear blue, silent and neutral. They are playing roles, but in those roles they become part of the art. That is, in essence what performance art is about.

Popularized Performance Art –People Begin to Fly by Yves Klein
One of the pieces of performance art that revived the movement in the United States was “People Begin to Fly’ by Yves Klein in 1961. The end result was its own piece of art, but the performance art involved Klein painting three models in blue paint. The models then moved their bodies on the canvas leaving various body imprints on the canvas.

Most performance art is provocative and because it necessitates use of the artists body as part of the art it is often sexual, deviant, or nascent in nature.

Best Contemporary Performance art –The Invisible Man, by Liu Bolin
Liu Bolin has built a reputation creating camouflage art work. In his work Liu Bolin creatively makes himself disappear into signs, blend into sculptures, or further camouflage himself into his environment. His work is amazing and among the best examples of contemporary performance art.

Best Body Art as Performance art – World Body Painting Festival 2006 Award Winner, by Raphaelle Fieldhouse
For most people the term “body art” refers to a tattoo. To contemporary artist who attend the annual Face and Body Art Convention body art is a means of communicating ideas and truths about the human body and human experience as related to society and nature. One of the experts at using the body as a canvas is Raphaelle Fieldhouse.

Fieldhouse is an international competitive body art painting winner and a member of the World Body Painting Festival Hall of Fame. One of his most amazing works is his soulful painting on a Woman at the 2006 Festival, which one Raphaelle his second World Body Painting Festival Award.

Memorable and Controversial Feminist Performance Art Public Cervix Announcement, by Annie Sprinkles
Annie Sprinkles voiced her feminism and her artistry in a bold way January 26, 1984. While she would repeat the performance art piece, it first took place at Franklin Furnace. A former porn star, Annie Sprinkles took advantage of Carnival Knowledge, to join other women in portraying themselves as more than porn stars, but women. Annie Sprinkles used a flashlight and speculum to enable men and women to examine her vagina. According to Sprinkles, she was struck by the genuine interest and intrigue with which people approached her performance art piece.

In my opinion, Annie Sprinkles took performance art to a distasteful extreme, but it must be said that she made her point.

Best Performance Art – Living Sculptures, by Gilbert and George
Among the early performance artists were Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore. In the 60s the two artists combined their work to creative living sculptures. Their idea was to merge with their art to eliminate the delineating lines between art and artists. Their work was considered innovative and addressed social issues pertinent to London at the time.

Contemporary Best Performance Art – Action Heroes, by Alexa Meade
Alexa Meade is relatively new to the performance arts media. While Alexa Meade does not limit himself to performance arts, but considers his most common media the same as most performance artists: found objects, walls, and flesh. His series of performance art entitled “Action Heroes” explores societies perception of action heroes and the parallel exploitation of males as violent heroes.

Latest Edition to Best of Performance Arts – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga had not announced herself as a performance arts artist, she is a musical performer. However, the costumes which Lady Gaga implements into her show and as a part of her persona establish Lady Gaga as a defacto performance artists. In fact, it could be that Lady Gaga, with her outrageous sense of style and statement revives one of the lesser known arts, performance arts. When Lady Gaga shows up, whether it is for a public appearance or musical performance she implements performance arts in every aspect of her appearances and shows.

I have to say, while many may not yet consider Lady Gaga a part of performance arts, I challenge them to take a second look, evaluate what performance arts is about, and then tell me, isn’t Lady Gaga forging a new direction in performance arts?

Best Performance Art 2009; Angela Ellsworth: Underpinnings, Phoenixnewtimes.com / Blue Man Group, blueman.com / CouCou Bazar – An Animated Painting, Dubuffetfoundation.com / Face and Body Art International Convention, orlandosentinal.com / The Invisible Man: Liu Bolin’s Camouflage Work, telegraph.co.uk / My Performance in Retrospect – Annie Sprinkles, Anniesprinkle.org / Performance Art: Performance Artists, visual-arts-cork.com /Talking to Alexa Meade, artczar / World Body Painting Festival Hall of Fame, wbpf

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