Smith Paragraphs

“What Is Contemporary Art?” by Terry Smith, seeks to explore the different possibilities of how to explain, interpret and categorize contemporary art. Most simply, Smith states that “it is what we say it is, it is what we do, it is the art that we show, that we buy and sell, that we promote and interpret”. Contemporary art is an important part of the social world today in many ways, from mass media to museums and architecture. It affects the society around it and is also affected by it. One of the challenges of interpretation of contemporary art that Smith talks about is the fact that it is coming from around the globe, from all different societies and viewpoints and understandings of the world. This is one contributing factor to the idea that contemporary art cannot be explained by any specific trend in style.

Contemporary art has also been speculated to have a periodlessness or a timelessness to it, because it arose out of the “crisis” that occurred when people began to think there might never again be a style to shape art of the time. Smith believes that contemporary art does have a historical pull to it. Some have commented on the idea that contemporary art is a watered down version of real art and only appealed to mass audiences, though Smith believes that this does not give enough credit to some artists who have succeeded in creating revolutionary art appealing to audiences and younger artists. He talks about how modern art, while it may serve as the foundation for contemporary art, is still a separate period. Art today may be known for its radicalism, its defiance and challenge to the ideas concerning what art is, and also how it is playing a huge role in society.

After having read this chapter by Terry Smith, I find myself most compelled by the idea that contemporary art could become timeless, and all other art will forevermore spin off the multitudes of possibilities that artists have been able to explore in this time. I believe that this could happen, but I also feel that history is cyclical, and we do not see it because we are in the present but if we were to look at this time in the future, it might very well have its own distinct period and styles associated with it. Another point I found most interesting is when Smith states, “contemporary art is that art being made today that will eventually become of long-term art historical interest. But how, now, can you (fore)tell?” This question of whether we can determine now what will last actually doesn’t interest me. I believe there is no possible way of knowing this and that is an incredibly interesting aspect of art in general. We need to enjoy the art that is coming out this day and age, interpret it if we must, and appreciate it for what it is.

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