Contemporary art is art produced at the present point in time. Some art museums and collections define contemporary art as including all art since the end of World War II more specifically since 1945. A similar term to contemporary art is Modern art. Postmodern art would also be a component of contemporary art.[vague]


The institutions of the Art world are the art practices, private collectors, galleries, museums, dealers, art schools, publishing houses, auction houses, and philanthropists. Institutions are part of the art market.

Viewers of Jonas Burgert's work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, Colorado.
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, Florida.

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 organisations and the commercial sector. For instance, in 2005 the book Understanding International Art Markets and Management reported that in Britain a handful of dealers represent the artists featured in leading publicly funded contemporary art museums.[1]

Outstanding books and magazines and individual collectors can wield considerable influence.

Corporations have integrated themselves into the contemporary art world: exhibiting contemporary art within their premises, organising and sponsoring contemporary art awards and building up extensive corporate collections.[2] Corporate advertisers frequently use contemporary art prestige and Coolhunting to draw the attention of consumers to Luxury goods.

The institutions of art have been criticised 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 argued it is not considered so because the artists are self-taught and are assumed to be working outside of an art historical context.[3] Craft activities, such as textile design, are also excluded from the realm of contemporary art, despite large audiences for exhibitions.[4] Art critic Peter Timms has said attention is drawn to the way that craft objects must subscribe to particular values in order to be admitted. "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."[5]

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.

Public attitudes

Contemporary art can sometimes seem at odds with a public that does not feel that art and its institutions share its values.[6] 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".[7] Some critics like Julian Spalding and Donald Kuspit have suggested that skepticism, even rejection, is a legitimate and reasonable response to much contemporary art.[8]


Main article: Classificatory disputes about art

A common concern since the early part of the 20th century is the question of what constitutes art. In the contemporary period (1950 to now), the concept of avant-garde[9] may come into play in determining what art is taken notice of by galleries, museums, and collectors. Propaganda and Entertainment in some circumstances have been regarded as art genres during the contemporary art period.


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.







See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Derrick Chong in Iain Robertson, Understanding International Art Markets And Management, Routledge, 2005, p95. ISBN 0-415-33956-1
  2. ^ Chin-Tao Wu, Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention Since the 1980s, Verso, 2002, p14. ISBN 1-85984-472-3
  3. ^ Gary Alan Fine, Everyday Genius: Self-Taught Art and the Culture of Authenticity, University of Chicago Press, 2004, pp42-43. ISBN 0-226-24950-6
  4. ^ Peter Dormer, The Culture of Craft: Status and Future, Manchester University Press, 1996, p175. ISBN 0-7190-4618-1
  5. ^ Peter Timms, What's Wrong with Contemporary Art?, UNSW Press, 2004, p17. ISBN 0-86840-407-1
  6. ^ Mary Jane Jacob and Michael Brenson, Conversations at the Castle: Changing Audiences and Contemporary Art, MIT Press, 1998, p30. ISBN 0-262-10072-X
  7. ^ Julian Stallabrass, High Art Lite: British Art in the 1990s, Verso, 1999, pp1-2. ISBN 1-85984-721-8
  8. ^ Spalding, Julian, The Eclipse of Art: Tackling the Crisis in Art Today, Prestel Publishing, 2003. ISBN 3-7913-2881-6
  9. ^ Fred Orton & Griselda Pollock, Avant-Gardes and Partisans Reviewed. Manchester University, 1996. ISBN 0-7190-4399-9
  10. ^

Further reading