Modern vs. Contemporary: Which Art Thou?

Kathy’s thoughts on Modern Art:

When it comes to Fine Art, I get confused when I hear the terms Modern and Contemporary. After a bit of research, I found that these terms are used interchangeably by society as a whole; however, within the Art world, Modern and Contemporary are two very different types of art.

Call it Modern:

Modern art refers to any art produced between 1860 and 1970, give or take a few years on either side, that departs from accepted norms and explores experimentation in its creation. In other words, not your great grandmother’s art. This broad definition includes everything from Realism, Impressionism (Monet), Symbolism, Post-Impressionism (Van Gogh), Art-Nouveau (Klimt), Fauvism (Matisse), Expressionism (includes Kandinsky and Color Photography), Cubism (Picasso), to several 20th Century styles such as Futurism, Suprematism, Dadaism, De Stijl (you’ll know it when you see it), Constructivism, Art Deco, Surrealism (Dali), and finally, Abstract Expressionism (Pollock).

Call it Contemporary:

Contemporary art includes roughly anything created since 1970 by artists still living (Elizabeth Peyton, Cheri Samba. This more recent art is relevant to society and the world today. Thus, the term Modern defines a specific art movement. As time passes, modern art ceases to be contemporary, therefore the distinction. Contemporary art is the outgrowth and the rejection of Modern art and is ever changing to encompass newly created art every day. That is why it is safest to define it as “… art made and produced by artists living today”.
After all of that being said, I have found in my own travels of art galleries that the use of the word contemporary can refer to “the process by which the art is created” Michael Warren Contemporary. Often times this process is extremely unconventional or unexpected. In my experience, the resulting artwork can be surprisingly attractive or sadly disappointing. Aw! Now we see the true meaning of the phrase “art is in the eye of the beholder”. Keep painting, Ron. I know I am biased but I think your work is beautiful! – Kathy

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