Contemporary art is a term used to describe ‘art of today’, created by artists that are still alive and producing works, although, art historians mark the beginning of the current contemporary era as the late 1960s, just after the end of Modern art. Usually, the art within this subset portrays certain ideas or concerns, rather than purely for aesthetic.
There are several key points that define the timeline of contemporary art, with the most notable being pop art. Pioneered by figures such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, portraying aspects of consumerism, advertising and mass culture in the US and UK. Depicting pop-culture figures as well as mundane items in bright, flashy colours are some of the most recognisable points of this movement. In the 1980s, thanks to artists such as Jeff Koons, the style saw a resurgence in the form of Neo-pop art.
Street art is a form that acquired popularity in the 1980s with the rise of graffiti, making it one of the most recent contemporary art styles. Street art comprises murals, installations, stencilled images, and stickers placed in public areas, with messages usually comprised of social commentary. Artists such as Banksy are key people in this specific genre, with most eventually moving into other contemporary outlets as well.
A completely different avenue of contemporary art is Photorealism, which is all about capturing real life to its exact detail. The ability to faithfully recreate portraits, landscapes, and other imagery was made possible by the fact that photorealists frequently worked from images. Both Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter frequently employed this aesthetic. Although, these works could still have levels of abstraction to them.
Conceptualism, despite being a visual art, is one that focuses simply on the ideas behind it rather than the aesthetics. Rooted most prominently in the 21st Century, artists such as Damien Hirst have created experimental works that explore radical notions. A similar genre of the contemporary movement is Minimalism, perhaps best seen with interior design. The 1960s saw the emergence of both movements, which challenge ‘conventional mechanisms for making, disseminating, and viewing art’ according to the Tate. However, what makes minimalism unique is that its straightforward, abstract style encourages viewers to react to what they see rather than what they believe a particular work of art to represent.
Going into the 21st Century, more contemporary artists have shifted into creating large scale installations, for example Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, which used mirrors and lights to make spaces that seemed to be never-ending. Although the use of large space is perceived differently by each person. Some artists choose to entirely cover existing rooms, or place sculptures in the centre to emphasise negative space surrounding it. Installation art is an extension of artistic minds, that take what they may usually paint or sculpt and expand it to enormous lengths and heights.
Contemporary art refers to a period that is enveloped by a plethora of styles and interpretations, with a focus around ideas and concepts that grab you before the visuals do. There’s something in this genre of art that speaks to everyone, making it one to definitely look into when considering buying art.