Terry smith what is contemporary art pdf

Not to be confused with Modern art. Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the late 20th century or in the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and terry smith what is contemporary art pdf advancing world.


Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition. Contemporary art is part of a cultural dialogue that concerns larger contextual frameworks such as personal and cultural identity, family, community, and nationality.

In vernacular English, “modern” and “contemporary” are synonyms, resulting in some conflation of the terms “modern art” and “contemporary art” by non-specialists. 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. 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. 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.

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.

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