From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Contemporary art can be defined variously as art produced at the present time or art produced since World War II. The definition of the word contemporary would support the first view, but museums of contemporary art commonly define their collections as consisting of art produced since World War II. Sometimes the distinction between contemporary art and modern art is made - the former is art being created today and the art of roughly since the early seventies, while the latter refers to art from the 1860s until the 1970s.
Contemporary art is exhibited by commercial contemporary art galleries, 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.
There are close relationships between publicly funded contemporary art organisations and the commercial sector. For instance, in Britain a handful of dealers represent the artists featured in leading publicly funded contemporary art museums.
Individual collectors can wield considerable influence. Charles Saatchi dominated the contemporary art market in Britain during the 1980s and the 1990s; the subtitle of the 1999 book Young British Artists: The Saatchi Decade uses of the name of the private collector to define an entire decade of contemporary art production.
Corporations have attempted to integrate themselves into the contemporary art world: exhibiting contemporary art within their premises, organising and sponsoring contemporary art awards and building up extensive collections of corporate art.
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, it is not considered so because the artists are self-taught and are 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. 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." (Peter Timms, What's Wrong with Contemporary Art?, UNSW Press, 2004, p17).
At any one time a particular place or group of artists can have a strong influence on globally produced contemporary art; for instance New York artists in the 1980s.
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.
A common concern since the early part of the 20th century is the question of what constitutes art. This concern can be seen running through the "modern", "postmodern" and now "conceptual" periods. The concept of avant-garde may come into play in determining what art is taken notice of by galleries, museums, and collectors. Serious art is ultimately exceedingly difficult to distinguish definitively from art that falls short of that designation.
Contemporary art prizes
Some competitions, awards and prizes in contemporary art are
- Emerging Artist Award awarded by The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
- Hugo Boss Prize awarded by the Guggenheim Museum
- Turner Prize for British artists under 50
- Participation in the Whitney Biennial
- Vincent Award, The Vincent van Gogh Biennial Award for Contemporary Art in Europe, founded by The Broere Charitable Foundation and hosted by Stedelijk Museum.
- Marcel Duchamp Prize awarded by ADIAF and Centre Pompidou.
- Ricard Prize for a French artist under 40.
This table lists art movements by decade. It should not be assumed to be conclusive.
- Anti-art and Anti-anti-art
- Burmese contemporary art
- Classificatory disputes about art
- List of contemporary artists
- Medium specificity
- Plop art
- Reductive art