I had what was for me a memorable conversation with an art student when she was my patient. She was in her second year of art school, and told me that one of the things she enjoyed most about it was art history. I asked what they taught in art history.
'The first year,' she said, 'we did African art. But now in the second year we're doing western art.'
I asked what particular aspect of western art they were doing.
As satire would be impossible, so commentary would be superfluous
The successful modern artist’s subject is himself, not in any genuinely self-examining way that would tell us something about the human condition, but as an ego to distinguish himself from other egos, as distinctly and noisily as he can. Like Oscar Wilde at the New York customs, he has nothing to declare but his genius: which, if he is lucky, will lead to fame and fortune. Of all the artistic disciplines nowadays, self-advertisement is by far the most important.
Dadaism itself was a reaction to the horrors of World War. If Western Culture, based on its long pursuit of transcendent meaning in art, could not steer itself away from the horrors of mass killing and war, then what good was it? Dadaists rejected meaning as an altogether bankrupt concept, and started a new way of thinking about "art." One can argue that nihilism as applied to art is just the absence of any kind of ethos or aesthetics, but it marked a transition from a kind of art that had lost its influence on society.
Consider the term "classical music": the word "classical" means something ancient, definable and static. Something that we go back and visit, like a museum piece. When the music was written, it wasn't "classical". It was the contemporary art of the day. We can still appreciate its beauty, but it was written for a different time.
If art is supposed to make people think, how should it speak to the problems of the present age? Genocide and disease rules much of the continent on which we now know life began. A small portion of the world's population holds most of the world's wealth. Wars rage on. These were not things that were collectively understood by the masses when the depiction of "beauty" ruled the art world. With the dawn of mass communication, the world has come out of its Eden-like notion of beauty. We've eaten the apple and seen our naked ugliness.
So anti-art has persisted. It is still the predominant form of contemporary art today. Is it winding down? I don't really know, but it seems to me that as a reactionary movement that caused people to think about value of art, it did serve a purpose, even if it's only temporary. I don't claim any expertise on these things. I suspect it's time for a new movement in art, which is perhaps in its underground stage. Art started on the walls of caves, so it probably isn't dead yet.