Smith Article response by Lauren Anderson

Terry Smith’s article asks and attempts to answer the question, “What is Contemporary Art?,” and does this through several different methods.  

He starts out by analyzing the institution that is Contemporary Art.  He explains it as network that allows Contemporary Art to present “itself to itself and to its interested audiences all over the world.”  This institution includes the artists, museums, galleries, auction houses, private collectors, curators, patrons, people who visit museums, art historians, and educators in schools.  This network of people and places has become globalized and is continuously expanding.  This massive amount of exposure, sharing, and works of art is new for the art world and is too much for one person to keep up with.  However, more people than ever before are able to see and be exposed to contemporary art.  Art is no longer exclusively for and educated elite.  With so much out there, a definitive style for contemporary art does not exist.  Smith claims that there will never be another clearly defined style and we have moved past the stage of “isms.”  He thinks that contemporary art is “out of time, or at least not subject to historical unfolding.” He also asks the question of what will happen if there is never a dominate style again.  Will it be scary, crippling, or freeing.  The best definition he gives is, “For the history of contemporary art, the core object of inquiry is the art, the ideas, the cultural practices and the values that are created within the conditions of contemporaneity.”


As for me, it is clear that contemporary art is defined by the fact that it is not easily defined or as Smith says, it “is what we say it is.”  The only truly defining feature of contemporary art is that it is being made right now or in my lifetime.  However, people are all different ages, so does that mean that contemporary art is different for everyone?  The definition of art is also constantly changing and expanding and is different for everyone. For now I feel its best to just appreciate art for what it is and not try to define it.  A definition or movement cannot possibly be made until we have more distance from our time and can reflect back.  Nevertheless, as Smith suggests, I am not sure that we will ever have a clear definition of what is happening right now.  The best I can tell is that what is happening right now is a conglomeration of what has happened in the past and the new perspectives of people today.

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