In its most basic sense, the term contemporary art refers to art—namely, painting, sculpture, photography, installation, performance, and video art—produced today. Though seemingly simple, the details surrounding this definition are often a bit fuzzy, as different individuals’ interpretations of “today” may widely and wildly vary. Therefore, the exact starting point of the genre is still debated; however, many art historians consider the late 1960s or early 1970s (the end of modern art, or modernism) to be an adequate estimate.
One characteristic that is synonymous, or perhaps symptomatic of contemporary art is an avant-garde approach. As a continuation of the pivotal modern art movements that shaped the 20th century, from the concept of Cubism to the style of Surrealism, contemporary art also takes its influence from postmodern ideas in seeking to challenge the discourse of traditional art. Experimentation is integral to the development of contemporary art. Challenging and provocative, contemporary artists combine everything from the new and the old, to the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional. Using the past as a way to understand the present, contemporary artists create art that looks to the future.
History of Contemporary Art
There still remains a much-debated uncertainty about the timeline of contemporary art. Whilst some believe that contemporary art was established on the cusp of the 1950s, others argue that contemporary art truly came into being in the late 70s. Depending on the point at which modern art ended and contemporary art began, movements such as Pop Art, Post-Modernism and Abstract Expressionism can technically be categorized as both, perhaps bridging the gap between the two. Although they may sound as if they refer to the same period, modern and contemporary art are two separate movements. Contemporary art presents a progression of technological advancements that embraced mediums such as video art and installation, as well as developing practices across painting, sculpture and photography.