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How to Define Contemporary Art

Gilbert & George
Singing Sculpture, 1991
Courtesy of the artists

The definition of contemporary art can vary depending on individual perspectives and the context in which the term is used. Some define it as artworks created by living artists, while others categorize it as art produced after the Second World War or, more specifically, after 1970. Additionally, contemporary art is often seen as a reflection of the ideas, values, and concerns of the current era.

Here are some aspects of contemporary art:

1. Reacting to the Contemporary World: Contemporary artists, driven by the dynamics of modern society, engage with a wide spectrum of themes encompassing pressing social, political, cultural, environmental, and personal issues. Embracing the globalized world, these artists draw inspiration from various cultures, regions, and experiences. By engaging with the world they inhabit, artists encourage viewers to embark on a contemplative journey and explore the intricacies and richness of contemporary life in all its diverse manifestations.'

2. Conceptual Focus: Contemporary art places a strong emphasis on concepts and ideas, going beyond mere visual expression. This approach encourages artists to delve into intellectual realms and engage with the complexities of human experiences and emotions. The goal is to provoke thought and reflection, inviting viewers to contemplate the deeper meanings behind the artworks and fostering a more profound connection between the audience and the art. By prioritizing conceptual depth, contemporary artists find flexibility in their use of mediums, no longer bound to rigid notions of aesthetic and expression.

3. Subverting Traditional Forms: Contemporary art embraces diversity and breaks free from the constraints of specific mediums, styles, or techniques. It encompasses various different forms of expression, including painting, sculpture, photography, video art, installation art, performance art, media art, and more. Many contemporary artists push the boundaries of genre and medium, leading to the prevalence of mixed media artworks, highly valuing innovation and experimentation to explore new possibilities in their artistic endeavors.'

4. Engaging the Audience in Creation: Contemporary art transcends the traditional boundaries between artist and spectator by actively involving the audience in the creative process. Many artworks today are designed to encourage participation and interaction, transforming viewers into active participants rather than passive observers. In this interactive exchange, the artwork takes on new dimensions as it evolves with each viewer's unique perspective, emotions, and experiences."

Related categories


Film/Video Art

Conceptual Art

Contemporary Social Phenomenon

Diaspora / Migration

Individual and Society

Street Art

Socio-political Issues

Public Art

Post-War American Art

20th Century Art

Found Objects

Surrounding Environment

Participatory Art

21st Century Art

Geopolitical Approach

Art after World War II