Terry Smith

The Smith article begins not with an attempt at describing contemporary art itself, but with an explanation of its place and importance within modern culture and society.  It exists within several important economic industries worldwide, such as tourism and education as well as being a industry unto itself with an intended audience both within and outside of highly educated esoteric circles.  Smith describes the immediate roots of the contemporary art period as being the end of the 1970’s and 80’s when an overall (or set of overall) directions for art seemed to dissipate and leave art in the hands of a small elite who seemed to cater only to themselves, inflating art prices and declaring their cultural superiority in doing so.  Contemporary art, smith argues, is the revival of from this when artists appealed both to the masses and elite by appealing to common interests outside the art community while attacking prior convoluted expectations thereby satisfying the art community’s lust for “questioning itself”.

Aside from defining its place and beginnings, Smith refrains from trying to pin down a description and instead talks about and then critiques several ways in which contemporary art can be defined within the context of art history; my personal favorite being we can’t define it as history because it’s not history yet.

My personal take on contemporary art is that, at some point it will have to be defined in the context of a canon for simplicities sake when talking about it, but the current rejection of canonization means it wont happen for a long time.  In the mean time, in my personal experience, it means that in the absence of the avant-garde and the rise of multimedia undermining the domination of the art elite, smaller local artists will be able to take their place defining art in a million different ways and hopefully be moved into the spotlight by curators on the basis of merit rather than a belief in the direction art should take.

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