What makes art contemporary?

What makes art contemporary?

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 advanced world.

What makes art contemporary?

Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts and subjects that continue the boundary challenge that was already well underway in the 20th century. Diverse and eclectic, contemporary art as a whole is distinguished by the lack of a uniform, organizational principle, ideology or “-ism”.

In order to understand what is Contemporary art we need to try to see art as part of a cultural dialogue that concerns broader contextual frameworks such as personal and cultural identity, family, community and nationality.

In other disciplines, this adjective is unique: modern literature and contemporary literature indicate different meanings. Much more clearly, the concept of modern music is usually reserved for modern popular music (coming from the mass consumer music industry); while that of contemporary music is made for that of academic music of the 20th century – although it is also common to find publications and institutions that assimilate both denominations and that speak of “modern and contemporary art”.

In addition to the art practice itself, contemporary art includes areas such as art criticism and theory, art education with its educational institutions and art schools, curating, contemporary art publications, media and media , public and private collecting, the galleries and fairs that make up the contemporary art market, the contemporary art production industry and the places where contemporary art works are exhibited, preserved and documented.

The terms

The terms contemporary art are used to avoid the term modern or avant-garde art. In everyday language, modern means “contemporary, according to contemporary taste, modern” and can therefore be considered synonymous with contemporary.

In technical terms, in the context of art and cultural history, the concept of modernity is more or less firmly associated with an era in the history of art that is not yet closed but is already historical. Especially in connection with the emergence of the term postmodern, see also postmodern architecture, here the modern is no longer considered contemporary or contemporary.
The terms contemporary art are not connected to any concept, artistic style, technique, form or belonging to a current, movement or artistic group. Contemporary art can be painting, but it can also be in a form that has only established itself in recent years and decades, such as video art, performance, conceptual art or abstract metal sculpture.

Classification of contemporary art

The classification of “contemporary art” as a special type of art, rather than a general adjectival phrase, dates back to the beginnings of Modernism in the English-speaking world. In London, the Contemporary Art Society was founded in 1910 by critic Roger Fry and others, as a private company for the purchase of works of art to be placed in public museums.

Numerous other institutions using the term were founded in the 1930s, such as the Contemporary Art Society of Adelaide, Australia in 1938, and an increasing number after 1945. Many, such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston changed their name by those who used “modern art” in this period, since modernism has been called a historical art movement, and a lot of “modern” art has ceased to be “contemporary”.

The definition of what is contemporary is naturally always in motion, anchored in the present with a start date that goes on, and the works purchased by the Contemporary Art Society in 1910 could no longer be described as contemporary.

* Contributed content and may contain affiliate links.

About The Author


Danielle Holke is a long-time knitter, first taught by her beloved grandmother as a young girl growing up in Canada. In 2008 she launched KnitHacker, a lively blog and knitting community which has since grown to be a popular presence in contemporary knitting culture, reaching more than a million readers each year. As a marketing professional, Danielle advises and works with a motley squad of artists, yarn bombers, film makers, pattern designers, yarn companies and more. Learn more about her latest book, Knits & Pieces: A Knitting Miscellany.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NEW! KnitHacker Gauges!

NEW! Fun Cat Butt Tools - Gauges and More!
Available exclusively from KnitHacker!

Get KnitHacker Alerts!

Sign up for weekly updates!

KnitHacker Supports Independent Designers!

Since 2008, Knithacker has worked hard to shine a light on independent designers and small businesses. In 2020 alone, KnitHacker directly helped hundreds of designers connect with knitting and crochet enthusiasts like you. Help me keep this valuable service alive, consider making a donation!


Your support will help me, Danielle Holke, keep KnitHacker a free service for our community. Every dollar makes a difference, thank you.

KnitHacker on Ravelry


KnitHacker on Etsy


Free Cell Phone Tracker

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Visit my recommended products page.