Dates: 1970-Present

Origin: International

Key Artists: Cornelia Parker, James Turrell

A term which arose in the early 1970s to describe works of art constructed in galleries and other places—such as warehouses and museums—for specific exhibitions. The term has been applied to a diverse range of phenomena, and has been used synonymously with other terms such as assemblage and Environmental art. Installation art does relate to these other forms in that they all reject concentration on one object in favour of a consideration of the relationships between various elements. However, an installation may perhaps be distinguished from these other types of art by the extent to which it is bound up with the concept of ‘site-specificity’, relating it to land art (which has been interpreted as a branch of Installation art). Unlike Land art, though, installations are generally concerned with the occupation of internal spaces.

The relationships between exhibition space and work of art are in fact so closely connected in much Installation art that the distinction between the two is deliberately annulled. An example is Vault (1992; London, Mus. Installation) by Chris Jennings (1949– ). Constructed so as to rely on its site, the piece was composed of metal rods creating a series of arcs which were supposed to define the space around them. In other works, the same objects are rearranged according to site. Antony Gormley (1950– ) created several different versions of Field, one having clay figures arranged in a radiating pattern (1989; Sydney, AG NSW), another involving the occupation by more than 35,000 such figures of an entire gallery (1991; New York, Salvatore Ala Gal.).

Parfitt, Oliver. “Installation art.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>

Cornelia Parker

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