Response to Smith (Goodman)

Smith opens chapter thirteen of his book asking the question “What is Contemporary Art?” and promptly provides for us “Contemporary Art is the institutionalized network through which the art of today presents itself to itself and to its interested audiences all over the world”. This allows to frame contemporary art in time and place. What we have is post historic timeless compositions, comparable only to themselves, and unclassifiable. Continue reading


Terry Smith defines contemporary art as an institution–one that is self-interested, self-motivated and self-perpetuating.  Though it is seemingly all dynamic, Smith argues that it is made up of both definitive structures of stasis and similarly definitive structures of change, so change and not-change are specific to compartmentalized sections of a larger whole that is contemporary art.  However, Smith notes that contemporary art itself can not be compartmentalized in the way that former “movements” and “isms” have been.  In somewhat of a Nietzsche-esque tone, Smith defines contemporary art as the death of said categorization.  She writes, “‘Contemporary,’ therefore, could well come to mean periodlessness, being perpetually out of time, or at least not subject to historical unfolding.”  In such, Smith claims that contemporary art appears to defy its own title, in that our judgment of it, our critique of it, and our analysis of it, creates a paradox.  Now, we can view contemporary art retrospectively (or seemingly so), despite its being constantly created and redefined.


To quote Yona Friedman, “order is a kind of disorder disguised and disorder is a kind of order disguised.”  This notion certainly applies to Smith’s argument that, despite the seeming order of past periodization, to limit the current movements of art would be an unpresidented disservice to the nature of the art culture itself.  What Smith calls a “socius,” refers to the “scene” in which the art culture works, buys, and judges art.  This is all contained within the larger locus of Contemporary Art as we understand it, or rather fail to understand it, today.

Given this subjectivity, which is arguably a result of its fluidity of definition, Contemporary Art has forever been full of contradictions.  It is both accessible and not accessible, both for the every-man and for the intellectual elite.  Despite this seeming conflict, however, I would argue that these qualities of Contemporary Art is as open to movement in and out of the socius as it needs to be.  Its semi-permeable barrier allows for the easy movement of individuals in and out of the locus of information.  In such a way, once an individual enters this locus, he or she has the open ability of interpretation, creation, appreciation, or other actions without the threat of either complete exclusion or complete inclusion, which are both equally threatening.  Art critics such as Terry Smith will continue to worry and argue over the future and current definitions of this art period, but I personally am happy to enjoy the fluidity and expansion that I see everyday as a result of Contemporary Art’s continuing infusion into everyday life.

camille breslin’s posting on the smith article and contemporary art

Contemporary art has multiple definitions and interpretation of the word. It makes it a little complicated and difficult to define an art form that is from a modern era. We are still currently in the sense of contemporary art and it is hard to define. According to Smith, contemporary art is something that is the artist’s and it’s a self-defined art. The article goes into discussing the multiple aspects of globalization, population growth, cultural influences, other external influences, including past artists, historical references and art history. Also technological interferences and the rapid growth of the media has created other factors in the shaping and morphing of the definition of contemporary art. It’s created a whole new spectrum and new out look on this particular genre of art because of it’s extremely easy and accessibility through modern technology. Smith claims that contemporary art is original. Contemporary art is a unique art style that leans towards contemporary focus and thought. It’s originality and it’s unique form binds contemporary hues giving the sense of a new form of expressionism and form of thought processing. Smith also talks about how one must be able to comprehend art history in general in order to produce works in contemporary art. An artist must understand the different cultural influences of the times and influences.

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Smith article

What is contemporary art? It is art that is ever changing through the decades and reflects what is occurring around the artist during that time. It can be a reflection of events in society to present and past history, it is considered “always present but without a past or future.” Museums and media help to spread the awareness of artistic movements and works which is good for society because the minds of people deserve to be fed knowledge beyond what words can say. Smith mentioned that contemporary art can be the end of an era of history or the start, however it is still timeless.

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Megan’s Paragraph

We begin by looking at the question, “What is Contemporary Art?”, which has varied meanings to audiences through the decades. Contemporary art has a relationship with its viewers, media, galleries, and the past. The ideals of contemporary art are constantly being challenged and changed. The art we know today is associated in many ways with the economy, art is a commodity to be bought and sold. Art is a reflection of the media and the expectations of its viewers and publicity. The shock and awe of art is obtained just for the sake of attention and recognition, the making of a celebrity out of the artist.

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