Allan Kaprow (b. 1927, Atlantic City, New Jersey - d. 2006, Encinitas, California) was a performance artist, educator, and theoretician known for coining the term “Happening,” a non-verbal, theatrical production that abandons stage-audience structure as well as the usual plot or narrative line of traditional theatre. Kaprow received a BA in philosophy and art history from New York University and an MA in art history from Columbia University, where he studied with Meyer Schapiro, and studied painting at the Hans Hoffman School of Fine Arts. He later enrolled in a class on music composition with John Cage at the New School for Social Research, where he met artists such as Dick Higgins and George Brecht.
In addition to organizing the earliest Happenings (first in October 1959 in New York) in the early 1960s, Kaprow participated in major group exhibitions including Happening and Fluxus (curated by Harald Szeemann) at the Neuer Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (1970); Documenta, Kassel (1978, 1987); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1984, 1999); the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1986); the traveling exhibition In the Spirit of Fluxus, organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1993-1994); Venice Biennale (1993); the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2001, 2006, 2011); the São Paulo Biennale (2012). A retrospective of Kaprow’s work was organized by the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, and traveled other locations in Europe and to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2008). Kaprow received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1974 and 1979 and a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship in 1979. Among his many publications are Assemblage, Environments, and Happenings (1966) and Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life (1993). Kaprow was also an influential educator; he taught at Rutgers University, which was an important site for several Fluxus happenings, until 1961; Pratt Institute; the State University of New York at Stony Brook; California Institute of the Arts; and University of California, San Diego.