Dada was a movement in European art which was characterized by a spirit of anarchic revolt against traditional values. It arose from a mood of disillusionment engendered by the First World War, to which some artists reacted with irony, cynicism, and nihilism. Originally, Dada appeared in two neutral countries (Switzerland and the USA), but towards the end of the war, it spread to Germany and subsequently to a few other countries. The unprecedented carnage of the war led the Dadaists to question the values of the society that had created it and to find them morally bankrupt. Their response was to go to extremes of buffoonery and provocative behavior to shock people out of corruption and complacency. One of their prime targets was the institutionalized art world, with its bourgeois ideas of taste and concern with market values.

The Dadaists deliberately flouted accepted standards of beauty and they exaggerated the role of chance in artistic creation. Group activity was regarded as more important than individual works, and traditional media such as painting and sculpture were largely abandoned in favor of techniques such as collage, photomontage, and ready-mades, in which there was no concern for fine materials or craftsmanship. Although the Dadaists scorned the art of the past, their methods and manifestos, particularly the techniques of outrage and provocation, owed much to Futurism; however, Dada's nihilism was very different from Futurism's militant optimism. Renowned Dada artists include Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp, France, (1887-1968), Man Ray, USA, (1890-1976), Francis Picabia, France, (1879-1953) and Max Ernst, Germany, (1891-1976).