Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that continue the challenging of boundaries that was already well underway in the 20th century. Diverse and eclectic, contemporary art as a whole is distinguished by the very lack of a uniform, organising principle, ideology, or "-ism". Contemporary art is part of a cultural dialogue that concerns larger contextual frameworks such as personal and cultural identity, family, community, and nationality.
Some define contemporary art as art produced within "our lifetime," recognising that lifetimes and life spans vary. However, there is a recognition that this generic definition is subject to specialized limitations.
The classification of "contemporary art" as a special type of art, rather than a general adjectival phrase, goes back to the beginnings of Modernism in the English-speaking world. In London, the Contemporary Art Society was founded in 1910 by the critic Roger Fry and others, as a private society for buying works of art to place in public museums. A number of other institutions using the term were founded in the 1930s, such as in 1938 the Contemporary Art Society of Adelaide, Australia, and an increasing number after 1945. Many, like the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston changed their names from ones using "Modern art" in this period, as Modernism became defined as a historical art movement, and much "modern" art ceased to be "contemporary". The definition of what is contemporary is naturally always on the move, anchored in the present with a start date that moves forward, and the works the Contemporary Art Society bought in 1910 could no longer be described as contemporary.
Particular points that have been seen as marking a change in art styles include the end of World War II and the 1960s. There has perhaps been a lack of natural break points since the 1960s, and definitions of what constitutes "contemporary art" in the 2010s vary, and are mostly imprecise. Art from the past 20 years is very likely to be included, and definitions often include art going back to about 1970; "the art of the late 20th and early 21st century"; "the art of the late 20th cent. and early 21st cent., both an outgrowth and a rejection of modern art"; "Strictly speaking, the term "contemporary art" refers to art made and produced by artists living today"; "Art from the 1960s or 70s up until this very minute"; and sometimes further, especially in museum contexts, as museums which form a permanent collection of contemporary art inevitably find this aging. Many use the formulation "Modern and Contemporary Art", which avoids this problem. Smaller commercial galleries, magazines and other sources may use stricter definitions, perhaps restricting the "contemporary" to work from 2000 onwards. Artists who are still productive after a long career, and ongoing art movements, may present a particular issue; galleries and critics are often reluctant to divide their work between the contemporary and non-contemporary.
Sociologist Nathalie Heinich draws a distinction between modern and contemporary art, describing them as two different paradigms which partially overlap historically. She found that while "modern art" challenges the conventions of representation, "contemporary art" challenges the very notion of an artwork. She regards Duchamp's Fountain (which was made in the 1910s in the midst of the triumph of modern art) as the starting point of contemporary art, which gained momentum after World War II with Gutai's performances, Yves Klein's monochromes and Rauschenberg's Erased de Kooning Drawing.
One of the difficulties many people have in approaching contemporary artwork is its diversity—diversity of material, form, subject matter, and even time periods. It is "distinguished by the very lack of a uniform organizing principle, ideology, or -ism" that we so often see in other, and oftentimes more familiar, art periods and movements. Broadly speaking, we see Modernism as looking at modernist principles—the focus of the work is self-referential, investigating its own materials (investigations of line, shape, color, form). Likewise, Impressionism looks at our perception of a moment through light and color as opposed to attempts at stark realism (Realism, too, is an artistic movement). Contemporary art, on the other hand, does not have one, single objective or point of view. Its view instead is unclear, perhaps reflective of the world today. It can be, therefore, contradictory, confusing, and open-ended. There are, however, a number of common themes that have appeared in contemporary works. While these are not exhaustive, notable themes include: identity politics, the body, globalization and migration, technology, contemporary society and culture, time and memory, and institutional and political critique. Post-modern, post-structuralist, feminist, and Marxist theory have played important roles in the development of contemporary theories of art.
The functioning of the art world is dependent on art institutions, ranging from major museums to private galleries, non-profit spaces, art schools and publishers, and the practices of individual artists, curators, writers, collectors, and philanthropists. A major division in the art world is between the for-profit and non-profit sectors, although in recent years the boundaries between for-profit private and non-profit public institutions have become increasingly blurred. Most well-known contemporary art is exhibited by professional artists at commercial contemporary art galleries, by private collectors, art auctions, corporations, publicly funded arts organizations, contemporary art museums or by artists themselves in artist-run spaces. Contemporary artists are supported by grants, awards, and prizes as well as by direct sales of their work. Career artists train at art school or emerge from other fields.
There are close relationships between publicly funded contemporary art organizations and the commercial sector. For instance, in 2005 the book Understanding International Art Markets and Management reported that in Britain a handful of dealers represented the artists featured in leading publicly funded contemporary art museums.
Corporations have also integrated themselves into the contemporary art world, exhibiting contemporary art within their premises, organizing and sponsoring contemporary art awards, and building up extensive corporate collections. Corporate advertisers frequently use the prestige associated with contemporary art and coolhunting to draw the attention of consumers to luxury goods.
The institutions of art have been criticized for regulating what is designated as contemporary art. Outsider art, for instance, is literally contemporary art, in that it is produced in the present day. However, one critic has argued it is not considered so because the artists are self-taught and are thus assumed to be working outside of an art historical context. Craft activities, such as textile design, are also excluded from the realm of contemporary art, despite large audiences for exhibitions. Art critic Peter Timms has said that attention is drawn to the way that craft objects must subscribe to particular values in order to be admitted to the realm of contemporary art. "A ceramic object that is intended as a subversive comment on the nature of beauty is more likely to fit the definition of contemporary art than one that is simply beautiful."
At any one time a particular place or group of artists can have a strong influence on subsequent contemporary art. For instance, The Ferus Gallery was a commercial gallery in Los Angeles and re-invigorated the Californian contemporary art scene in the late fifties and the sixties.
Contemporary art can sometimes seem at odds with a public that does not feel that art and its institutions share its values. In Britain, in the 1990s, contemporary art became a part of popular culture, with artists becoming stars, but this did not lead to a hoped-for "cultural utopia". Some critics like Julian Spalding and Donald Kuspit have suggested that skepticism, even rejection, is a legitimate and reasonable response to much contemporary art. Brian Ashbee in an essay called "Art Bollocks" criticizes "much installation art, photography, conceptual art, video and other practices generally called post-modern" as being too dependent on verbal explanations in the form of theoretical discourse. However, the acceptance of non traditional art in museums has increased due to changing perspectives on what constitutes an art piece.
A common concern since the early part of the 20th century has been the question of what constitutes art. In the contemporary period (1950 to now), the concept of avant-garde may come into play in determining what art is noticed by galleries, museums, and collectors.
The concerns of contemporary art come in for criticism too. Andrea Rosen has said that some contemporary painters "have absolutely no idea of what it means to be a contemporary artist" and that they "are in it for all the wrong reasons."
Some competitions, awards, and prizes in contemporary art are:
This table lists art movements and styles by decade. It should not be assumed to be conclusive.
Art in America is an illustrated monthly, international magazine concentrating on the contemporary art world in the United States, including profiles of artists and genres, updates about art movements, show reviews and event schedules. It is designed for collectors, artists, art dealers, art professionals and other readers interested in the art world. It has an active website, ArtinAmericaMagazine.com.Artforum
Artforum is an international monthly magazine specializing in contemporary art.Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
The Australian Centre For Contemporary Art (ACCA) is a contemporary art gallery in Melbourne, Australia. The gallery is located on Sturt Street in the Melbourne Arts Precinct, in the inner suburb of Southbank. Designed by Wood Marsh Architects, the building was completed in 2002. It incorporates facilities for Chunky Move, ACCA and the Malthouse Theatre.
In December 2015, Max Delany was announced as the new Artistic Director of ACCA, replacing the outgoing Artistic Director Juliana Engberg.Australian art
Australian art is any art made in or about Australia, or by Australians overseas, from prehistoric times to the present. This includes Aboriginal, Colonial, Landscape, Atelier, early-twentieth-century painters, print makers, photographers, and sculptors influenced by European modernism, Contemporary art. The visual arts have a long history in Australia, with evidence of Aboriginal art dating back at least 30,000 years. Australia has produced many notable artists of both Western and Indigenous Australian schools, including the late-19th-century Heidelberg School plein air painters, the Antipodeans, the Central Australian Hermannsburg School watercolourists, the Western Desert Art Movement and coeval examples of well-known High modernism and Postmodern art.Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative
The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative is a five-year program, supported by Swiss bank UBS in which the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation identifies and works with artists, curators and educators from South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa to expand its reach in the international art world. For each of the three phases of the project, the museum invites one curator from the chosen region to the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York City for a two-year curatorial residency, where he or she works with a team of Guggenheim staff to identify new artworks that reflect the range of talents in their parts of the world. The resident curators organize international touring exhibitions that highlight these artworks and help organize educational activities. The Foundation acquires these artworks for its permanent collection and includes them as the focus of exhibitions that open at the museum in New York and subsequently travel to two other cultural institutions or other venues around the world. The Foundation supplements the exhibitions with a series of public and online programs, and supports cross-cultural exchange and collaboration between staff members of the institutions hosting the exhibitions. UBS is reportedly contributing more than $40 million to the project to pay for its activities and the art acquisitions. Foundation director Richard Armstrong commented: "We are hoping to challenge our Western-centric view of art history."Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is an art museum and exhibition space located in Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. The museum was founded as the Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936 with a mission to exhibit contemporary art. Since then it has gone through multiple name changes as well as moving its galleries and support spaces over 13 times. Its current home was built in 2006 in the South Boston Seaport District and designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro.Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
The Institute of Contemporary Art or ICA is a contemporary art museum in Philadelphia. The museum is associated with the University of Pennsylvania, and is located on its campus. The Institute is one of the country's leading museums dedicated to exhibiting the innovative art of our time. Its current Director is Amy Sadao. Robert Chaney is its Director of Curatorial Affairs.Mixed media
In visual art, mixed media is an artwork in which more than one medium or material has been employed.
Assemblages and collages are two common examples of art using different media that will make use of different materials including cloth, paper, wood and found objects.Mixed media art, a visual art, is distinguished from multimedia art which combines visual art with non-visual elements, such as recorded sound, literature, drama, dance, motion graphics, music, or interactivity.MoMA PS1
MoMA PS1 is one of the largest art institutions in the United States dedicated solely to contemporary art. It is located in the Long Island City neighborhood in the borough of Queens, New York City. In addition to its exhibitions, the institution organizes the Sunday Sessions performance series, the Warm Up summer music series, and the Young Architects Program with the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA PS1 has been affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art since January 2000 and, as of 2013, attracts about 200,000 visitors a year.Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago is a contemporary art museum near Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The museum, which was established in 1967, is one of the world's largest contemporary art venues. The museum's collection is composed of thousands of objects of Post-World War II visual art. The museum is run gallery-style, with individually curated exhibitions throughout the year. Each exhibition may be composed of temporary loans, pieces from their permanent collection, or a combination of the two.The museum has hosted several notable debut exhibitions including Frida Kahlo's first U.S. exhibition and Jeff Koons' first solo museum exhibition. Koons later presented an exhibit at the Museum that broke the museum's attendance record. The current record for the most attended exhibition is the 2017 exhibition of Takashi Murakami work. Its collection, which includes Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, and Alexander Calder, contains historical samples of 1940s–1970s late surrealism, pop art, minimalism, and conceptual art; notable holdings 1980s postmodernism; as well as contemporary painting, sculpture, photography, video, installation, and related media. The museum also presents dance, theater, music, and multidisciplinary arts.
The current location at 220 East Chicago Avenue is in the Streeterville neighborhood of the Near North Side community area. Josef Paul Kleihues designed the current building after the museum conducted a 12-month search, reviewing more than 200 nominations. The museum was originally located at 237 East Ontario Street, which was originally designed as a bakery. The current building is known for its signature staircase leading to an elevated ground floor, which has an atrium, the full glass-walled east and west façades giving a direct view of the city and Lake Michigan.Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) is a contemporary art museum with three locations in greater Los Angeles, California. The main branch is located on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, near the Walt Disney Concert Hall. MOCA's original space, initially intended as a "temporary" exhibit space while the main facility was built, is now known as the Geffen Contemporary, in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles. The Pacific Design Center facility is in West Hollywood.
The museum's exhibits consist primarily of American and European contemporary art created after 1940. Since the museum's inception, MOCA's programming has been defined by its multi-disciplinary approach to contemporary art.Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is a collecting museum located in North Miami, Florida. The 23,000-square-foot (2,100 m2) building was designed by the internationally acclaimed architecture firm Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, New York City.Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (abbreviated MCA), located in Sydney, Australia, is an Australian museum solely dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and collecting contemporary art, both from across Australia and around the world. It is housed in the art deco-style former Maritime Services Board Building on the western edge of Circular Quay.
The museum was opened in 1991 as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and from 2010 underwent an A$58 million expansion and re-development, reopening on 29 March 2012 under its current name as the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The collection contains over 4,000 works by Australian artists that have been acquired since 1989. The collection spans all art forms with strong holdings in painting, photography, sculpture, works on paper and moving image, as well as significant representation of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (or MCASD), in San Diego, California, US, is an art museum focused on the collection, preservation, exhibition, and interpretation of works of art from 1950 to the present.Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (MACM) is a contemporary art museum in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is located on the Place des festivals in the Quartier des spectacles and is part of the Place des Arts complex.
Founded in 1964, it is Canada's first museum devoted to contemporary art. Initially housed in the Place Ville-Marie, the museum moved into the premises of the Château Dufresne in 1965, followed by an exhibition gallery from Expo 67 in 1968. In 1992, the museum moved to its current premises at Place des Arts in Montreal.New Museum
The New Museum of Contemporary Art, founded in 1977 by Marcia Tucker, is a museum in New York City at 235 Bowery, on Manhattan's Lower East Side.Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) is a contemporary performance and visual arts organization in Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon. PICA was founded in 1995 by Kristy Edmunds. Since 2003, it has presented the annual Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) every September in Portland, featuring contemporary and experimental visual art, dance, theatre, film/video, music, and educational and public programs from local, national, and international artists. As of November 2017, it is led by Executive Director Victoria Frey and Artistic Directors Roya Amirsoleymani, Erin Boberg Doughton, and Kristan Kennedy.San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a modern art museum located in San Francisco, California. A nonprofit organization, SFMOMA holds an internationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art, and was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art. The museum's current collection includes over 33,000 works of painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, design, and media arts. They are displayed in 170,000 square feet (16,000 m2) of exhibition space, making the museum one of the largest in the United States overall, and one of the largest in the world for modern and contemporary art.SFMOMA reopened on May 14, 2016, following a major three-year-long expansion project. The expansion more than doubles the museum's gallery spaces and provides almost six times as much public space as the previous building, allowing SFMOMA to showcase an expanded collection along with the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection of contemporary art.Tate
Tate is an institution that houses, in a network of four art museums, the United Kingdom's national collection of British art, and international modern and contemporary art. It is not a government institution, but its main sponsor is the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.The name "Tate" is used also as the operating name for the corporate body, which was established by the Museums and Galleries Act 1992 as "The Board of Trustees of the Tate Gallery".
The gallery was founded in 1897, as the National Gallery of British Art. When its role was changed to include the national collection of modern art as well as the national collection of British art, in 1932, it was renamed the Tate Gallery after sugar magnate Henry Tate of Tate & Lyle, who had laid the foundations for the collection. The Tate Gallery was housed in the current building occupied by Tate Britain, which is situated in Millbank, London. In 2000, the Tate Gallery transformed itself into the current-day Tate, which consists of a network of four museums: Tate Britain, which displays the collection of British art from 1500 to the present day; Tate Modern, also in London, which houses the Tate's collection of British and international modern and contemporary art from 1900 to the present day; Tate Liverpool (founded in 1988), which has the same purpose as Tate Modern but on a smaller scale; and Tate St Ives in Cornwall (founded in 1993), which displays modern and contemporary art by artists who have connections with the area. All four museums share the Tate Collection. One of the Tate's most publicised art events is the awarding of the annual Turner Prize, which takes place at Tate Britain.