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Kinetic Art- An Introduction

Updated on April 23, 2011
Kinetic Art-perceptual illusions
Kinetic Art-perceptual illusions

An Introduction to Kinetic Art

Kinetic art represents a type of artwork that depicts both scientific and artistic aspects of life. As an artist, I have been exposed to many types of art, but it was not until a couple years ago that someone introduced me to kinetic art. Due to my fascination with this very unique type of art, and the relatively limited exposure it receives, I decided to write an introductory piece on "Kinetic Art".

Although “Kinetic art” became recognized as part of critical vocabulary in the 1950s, its popularity has not grown very much over the years. This article gives an overview of the history of kinetic art and a basic understanding of the types of kinetic art that exist today.


Kinetic Art is art that has movement, or parts that are set in motion. The moving parts are generally powered by wind, a motor, or the observer.

Brief History

The idea of a moving sculpture has been proposed by the Futurists as early as 1909; however, Alexander Colder (1898- 1976) was the only leading figure who was associated specifically with moving sculpture for many years.

During the 1950’s, around the time when the phrase “kinetic art” became recognized in critical vocabulary, the exhibition “Le Mouvement” was held at the Denise René Gallery in Paris. This event established Kinetic Art as distinct. The artists represented in the exhibition included Yaacov Agam, Pol Bury, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Tinguely, and Victor Vasarely.


In 1979, the Cambridge University discussed the Legacy of Constructivism as having influenced kinetic art. The constructivist tradition wanted to believe that engineers and scientists could collaborate with artists for common goals. It aimed to bridge the gap between “two cultures”- the scientific and the humanistic. The constructivist legacy can be seen in various movements and institutions.

According to Jack Burnham, author of Beyond Modern Sculpture, kinetic art was based on a simple premise; if so much of 20th Century art had represented light and motion, why not create art that is literally based on light and movement?

Today, kinetic art sometimes merges with other types of avant- garde art, including performance art, computer generated art, mixed media and installation art.

Types of Kinetic Art

There are basically 2 types of kinetic art:

Art that employs moving parts

This type of kinetic art includes objects or sculptures that employ motion provided mechanically through electricity, steam or clockwork; by utilizing natural phenomena such as wind or wave power; or by relying on the spectator to provide the motion, by doing something such as cranking a handle.

Nick Diemel makes wooden mechanical kinetic sculptures powered by constant-force springs. The sculptures are beautiful artistic creations when at rest, but they become truly exciting and fascinating when in motion. The following video demonstrates one of his sculptures in motion.

Kinetic Art Sculpture by Nick Diemel

Art that utilizes perceptual illusions

This type of kinetic art employs interactions between illusions and picture planes, and between understanding and seeing. When the viewer looks at the art, the impression is given of movement, hidden images, flashing and vibration, patterns, or alternatively, of swelling or warping.

Op art is exemplary of the utilization of perceptual illusions. The following is an example of this.

Perceptual illusion design
Perceptual illusion design

Museums that display kinetic art


1.Kinetic Sculpture Museum

Ferndale CA, USA

2.American Visionary Art Museum

Baltimore MD, USA

3.BMW Museum

Olympiapark, Munich

4.Kinetica - Museum of Kinetic Art

London, UK


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    • gis_r07 profile image

      gis_r07 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      Thanks for you comment modern furniture. There is no movement within the pictures themselves. Actually it is said that Op art creates a visual tension in the viewer's mind that gives the art the illusion of movement.

    • gis_r07 profile image

      gis_r07 6 years ago from Boston, MA

      Thanks for stopping by ripplemaker. Your comments are always appreciated.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      This is very interesting as I stared at the photo on top. I was mesmerized. :) Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination! Te link to the Hubnuggets -