What is Contemporary Art?

We all know that art is subjective. What a person appreciates can be considered art. So, if you enjoy a statue made entirely out of paperclips, others will have a difficult time convincing you that it is not art. Still, with so much freedom of expression in the world today, there are a wide number of categories of art that can help you to define and clarify your tastes and preferences.

Understanding these different categories is not always clearly defined and often confusing. Probably the style of art that is least understood by many is contemporary art. Ask one hundred people to define contemporary art and you’ll probably get a hundred different answers. Part of the disparity of viewpoints comes from the newer and more modern terms that have come up in recent generations. However, there is a simple way to grasp the meaning of the new art styles and how to identify them.

The Time Factor

While each style of art is unique in its own right, the titles of the different arts are more often associated with a specific time period. For example, the Impressionist art movement started in France somewhere around the 1870s. Its style was to capture the impressions or the feelings in a particular scene. It took the place of the more detailed realism that came before. Impressionist art remained a popular style until it was replaced by Modern Art that appeared on the scene sometime in the 60s. So, in defining Contemporary Art, you must be fully aware of the time factor involved. In fact, this is a time when contemporary works of art began to appear; about the same time that Modern Art began to fade away, around the 1960s and it continues to be produced today.

The Challenge

Up until the 1970s, art classifications seemed relatively easy. According to some experts art created prior to that year, identifying and classifying of a particular piece of work was relatively simple. However after that time period, as we enter the Contemporary Art phase, the lines began to become a little blurred. That was also the time when contemporary artists began to enter into a variety of artistic movements that are not so easily classified. These collective movements reflect a style that carried a specific philosophy or goal set during a specified period of time. These time periods could last for as little as a few months or as long as several years.

Contemporary Art movements included pop art, word art, conceptualism, performance, video, earthworks, photography, and graffiti to name just a few. While there were movements in other periods in history, it is the contemporary art that has enjoyed the most movements. Because people in general have been more socially conscious than any other previous generation, movements like feminism, multiculturalism, and human trafficking have become major contributors to the contemporary art world.

In short, Contemporary art is any art that has been created since the 1960s and up to our current period in history. It doesn’t necessarily require that you meet a certain style of but instead incorporates all different styles and all different messages to ensure that all works of art created now will be considered contemporary art.


  • http://arthistory.about.com/od/current_contemporary_art/f/what_is.htm
  • https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/beginners-guide-20-21/a/contemporary-art-an-introduction

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