Art Radar Asia

Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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    Art Radar Asia News conducts original research and scans global news sources to bring you selected topical stories about the taste-changing, news-making and the up and coming in Asian contemporary art.

What is….. contemporary art? A definition

Posted by artradar on September 22, 2009


This is the first in a new series of posts defining art terms in the contemporary art field.

Whether you are completely new to art or already count yourself among the cognoscenti, we hope this series will build your knowledge and confidence. For the new explorer we aim to clarify the basics. For the more experienced this useful refresher will be supplemented by intriguing background facts and details.

For a site which confines itself to contemporary art, we thought we had better start right there….

Definition: contemporary art

Term loosely used to denote the art of the present day and relatively recent past.

Usually avant-garde in nature.

Contemporary art museum definitions

Still confused? It is not surprising. Since the middle of the twentieth century, various museums have been established with a remit to focus on contemporary art. As a result these institutions have developed their own definitions which vary from one to another.

For example the Institute of Contemporary Art in London founded in 1947 champions art from that year onwards. The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York chooses the later date of 1977. In the 1980s the Tate planned a Museum of Contemporary Art in which contemporary art was defined as art of the past ten years on a rolling basis.

And how does Art Radar define contemporary art? Our focus is firmly current so we are interested in art being made today.  However we do delve back in time. For example we like to look at the lifetime oeuvres of living artists and how current works have been shaped by the past. We may also look at the work of artists from any century who have played a part in influencing artworks being made today.

Source: The Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms – Simon Wilson and Jessica Lack

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3 Responses to “What is….. contemporary art? A definition”

  1. I think that the term ‘avant garde’ used earlier is apt. Imagine if merely being alive and making art now was enough to qualify as contemporary? An artist may be dealing with problems no longer necessary to solve, as I believe it can be said that the contemporary world sees and excepts a very different art they did 100, 200, 300 and so years ago.

  2. Paul said

    Well, to me contemporary art means the art of the present as being practised by people who live in the same generation. While modern art to me depict the very beginnig of freedom in art. Modern art is all about liberty in self expresssion devoid of inhibitions and laid down rules. It actually marries contemporay art as most comtemporary art forms have traces of modernism in them.

  3. Paul said

    I quite agree with you that the term comtemporary art shares almost the same thing with modern art. My question is; Is their any qualification for contemporary artist? Is he the college trained artist or one who learnt in workshops and by informal way or the artist who developed through personal observation and self training? Enlighten me, please.

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