Just as a call went out around 1960 announcing the end of painting, sculpture was also put to the test by Minimal Art and Conceptul Art, Pop Art and Actionism. The concept of the installation - as the counter plan to the autonomous sculpture in the context of Minimal Art - is marked by an artistic method in which artists position objects in space in such a way that the whole exhibition situation is drawn in to the work, and the specific nature of the space in question is taken into account. While works in the Minimal Art context during the 1960s were characterised by industrial products and consequently by working with modules, serialism, and a reduction to primary forms, Pop Art and Action art developed installational pieces that obliterated the fundamental division between painting and sculpture, or indeed placed the objects directly in everyday life.
Not until the mid-nineties did the concept of the installation come to be synonymous with a genre in art, even though it came from an art context that distinguished itself precisely by this attempt to try out a new art practice outside of the handed-down genres. One of the foremost representatives of this genre-bending approach is Rebecca Horn, who rose to fame in the 1970s with filmed documentations of her actions demonstrating the body apparatuses she made. She developed these further into a sequence of machine objects that appeared both as the protagonists of her movies and as exhibits in her shows. The work of artist Siah Armajani is winged by idea of participatory art. His pedestrian bridges, poetry gardens, reading and waiting rooms, and the gathering places which he has developed for public spaces are based on a Dictionary for Building which Armajani developed between 1974 and 1986, and that reflects on all the basic modules used in architecture by means of small models done in card and balsa. In addition Armajani takes the individual architectural elements from his Dictionary and forms them into new sculptures that trigger associations with places and their possible uses - although they are too ambiguous to be attributed to anything concrete.
Likewise the installations by Mike Kelley as well as Pawel Althamer can be viewed in the performative context from which they hailed. At the same time the handed-down traditions of painting and sculpture remain important yardsticks for those artists born in the 1950s. The is even true of Thomas Schütte, Isa Genzken, and Katharina Fritsch, whose works at first sight come across as autonomous and often even as figurative sculptures. At the same time the model character of the sculptures, which draw on theatre, architecture, monuments or the human figure, questions this autonomy. Through the spatial manifestation and arrangement of their sculptures, the viewer is always pointed to the history of museum presentation or to a narrative logic that informs the sculptures. While Isa Genzken arrives nowadays at radical solutions by bringing foils bearing minimalist reflecting structures together with everyday objects to create disturbing mises-en-scène, in his most recent series Thomas Schütte has dedicated himself to the principal motif in the history of sculpture - the female nude.