Originally a military term meaning advance guard or vanguard, adopted to an art and design context to mean work that is radically new - experimental, unorthodox, and challenging the cultural status quo.
' Art that deliberately overturns conventions, traditions or common practices in favour of something new. As the power of art academies began to collapse in the late 19th century, young artists began to adopt rebellious stances as a matter of course. The idea that a style of art should be new intensified in the early years of the 20th century, when a succession of 'isms' resulted in a fragmentation of conventional monolithic views of art.'
Avant-Garde. (1996). In S. West (Ed.), The Bloomsbury guide to art. London, UK: Bloomsbury. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.kingston.ac.uk/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com.ezproxy.kingston.ac.uk/content/entry/bga/avant_garde/0