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When applied to art, avant-garde stands true to its etymology to mean a vanguard for an advancing army. Any art that is innovative and experimental, makes a clear departure from the prevailing norms of what is art and what defines art, can be termed avant-garde. Avant-gardism has been treated as the criteria of all modern art, where at different stages, sought to make departures from the current. It could be an exploration of new forms as well as subjects, or be catalysed by social motivations. The origins of the term, even though mired in some debate, can be traced to its usage in French by the influential socialist thinker Henri de Saint-Simon to denote the arts and artists with the same vanguard’s role as other professions and ideas to propel social changes.

Marchel Duchamp, Fountain-inspiration of avant garde movements, 1917, urinal