What is Contemporary Art?

Bruce Kenyon

Terry smith defines Contemporary Art as the “institutionalized network through which the art of today presents itself to itself and to its interested audiences all over the world.” Through museums, galleries, art fairs, auction sales, biennials, magazines websites etc…we find a new and evolving presence of art in society that is not going to go away but will continue to change. This art is tied to the economy and influences design, fashion, tourism and also effects reform and change in politics, education and media. In the past decade museums have been springing up after a post 9/11 halt. These museums are being led by contemporary art. Contemporary Art is “saturated with a deep detailed ( but not always systematic) knowledge of art “history.” Art is aware of art histories purpose within history, and responses to history itself.

Contemporary in this book refers to the constantly changing present. However the “post historical” approach means surrendering to art history, and what historical materialist critique can offer. Smith notes the “trickster” effect- which is while the primary concern for contemporary artists is their own careers and their success can be measured by how much publicity they get, the artists are not taking time to reflect and acknowledge or even a on this evolving state of affairs. She points out that there is now more contemporary art then ever before, and thus this makes it difficult to interpret it as a general category. Contemporary art should consider all of arts history, postmodernism, modernism and other, its pros and cons, and also take into account world art.

Before reading this I didn’t really know what Contemporary Art was…I just thought it meant new art. In a way this simple definition works, however; Terry Smith points out that it really is much more complex then this definition suggests. I like the fact that contemporary art is always changing like the present it. This definition makes it more real for me and easier to connect with. All we see is the present and art that depicts reactions and descriptions to real events that affect the world and humanity is worth looking at. Art is constantly changing, the mediums, the way we view it, the access we have to it, the foundations we have based on previous art leads us to a different perspective even before viewing a piece. I am very excited to see how contemporary art acknowledges art and world history and continues to evolve in this flat world we live in.

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