What is Contemporary Art?

Contemporary art is a term used a great deal, but what does it mean? Let’s take a look at some possibilities and explore a bit further from there.

“The art of the late 20th century and early 21st century, both an outgrowth and a rejection of modern art. As the force and vigour of abstract expressionism diminished, new artistic movements and styles arose during the 1960s and 70s to challenge and displace modernism in painting, sculpture, and other media.”
Fine art registry – Glossary of terms.

“Contemporary Art encompasses all art being done now. It tends to include art from the 1960s or 1970s through the present.”
Tennyson Gallery – Glossary of terms

“Contemporary art can be defined variously as art produced at this present point in time or art produced since World War II. The definition of the word contemporary would support the first view, but museums of contemporary art commonly define their collections as consisting of art produced since World War II.”

Some Contemporary Art Movements, styles, variations.

Abstract Expressionism
Bay Area Figurative Movement
Lyrical Abstraction
New York Figurative Expressionism
New York School

Abstract expressionism
Bay Area Figurative Movement
Colour field
Computer art
Conceptual art
Hard-edge painting
Lyrical Abstraction
New York School
Nouveau Réalisme
Op Art
Performance art
Pop Art
Post minimalism
Washington Colour School

Ugly Realism
Video Art
Arte Povera
Land Art
Body Art
Feminist Art
Yunnan School
Bad Painting
Post Minimalism
New Image Painting
Nuovi Nuovi
Ascii Art
Aboriginal ‘Dot Painting’
Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru
Mühlheimer Liberty
Trans avant-garde

Free Figuration (Figuration Libre)
Neue Wilde
Chicago Imagism
East Village
Appropriation Art
Mail Art
Graffiti Movement
BritArt / Young British Artists (“yBa”)

Net Art
Information Art
Arte factoria
New Media Art
New Leipzig School
Tiki Art
Post colonialism
Cynical Realism
Internet art
Young British Artists

Environmental impressionism/expressionism


Post Conceptual Art
Relational Art
Software Art
Sound Art
Street Art
Ungraven Image
Videogame Art
VJ Art

The above list is created from a range of resources on the internet (Wikipedia is but one), the validity of any of the categories listed above is probably rather subjective in many cases, so in the end it comes back to you and your research to be able to “verify” what’s listed and not just accept it as “fact”.

Lets explore the  notion of contemporary works of art and their categorisation further. Note in the opening quotes, the idea of any art created now can be classed as contemporary. As true as this is there is another factor or two that needs to be explored here. Take a look at a range of art you might see every day in peoples homes, framing galleries, or as posters etc. the works are often decorative, things of “beauty” to decorate not so much to push boundaries and or cause people to think.

Note the lists above do not have a category for decorative art, fantasy art, art therapy, nor leisure painting. What needs to be mentioned is the role of art curators, art critics, artist’s peers and the like have in supporting artistic directions, styles of art and or groups of art. In a sense art that communicates on a deeper level could be a way of summing up “serious art” and in this case contemporary works. Therefore some of the categories left out are probably no considered “High art” although the artists may have very serious intent.

In exploring the fractious and nebulous world of art, take in all comers, and check out where they “fit” in the scheme of things. It’s important to be able to measure and find a place for things, push boundaries and check out what’s taking place so you can explore things in their right context. Perhaps from this article you can create a checklist of things to consider when viewing an art work to see if it is indeed a contemporary work of “value”, decoration or a piece of therapeutic merit.


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