We are always getting asked: What is the difference between contemporary art and old masters? In a nutshell, contemporary art is created by artists that are still alive. Old Masters are paintings painted by artists that are deceased. The good news is that if we purchase contemporary art now from well known, talented artists, then chances are that one day, either us or our children will be the proud owners of old masters.
The bad news for the artists is that generally while they are alive, and painting, they seldom get to see the true value of what their paintings are truly worth.
Contemporary means “art that has been and continues to be created during our lifetimes.” In other words, contemporary to us. Contemporary art is art produced at the present period in time. Contemporary art includes, and develops from, post-modern art, which is itself a successor to modern art.
Strictly speaking, it refers to art made and produced by artists from the 1960’s or 70’s up until this very minute. 1970 is the cut-off point for two reasons. Firstly, because it was around 1970 that the terms “Post-modern” and “Post-modernism” popped up — meaning, we must assume, that the art world had had its fill of Modern Art. Secondly, 1970 seems to be the last bastion of easily classified artistic movements.
While it may be hard to classify emergent movements, Contemporary art is much more socially conscious than any previous era has been. A whole lot of art from the last 30 years has been connected with one issue or another: feminism, multiculturalism, globalization, bio-engineering and AIDS awareness all come readily to mind as subject matter. Today’s artists work in and respond to a global environment that is culturally diverse, technologically advancing, and multifaceted.
Working in a wide range of mediums, contemporary artists often reflect and comment on modern-day society. When engaging with contemporary art, viewers are challenged to set aside questions such as, “Is a work of art good?” or “Is the work aesthetically pleasing?” Instead, viewers consider whether art is “challenging” or “interesting.” Contemporary artists may question traditional ideas of how art is defined, what constitutes art, and how art is made, while creating a dialogue with-and in some cases rejecting-the styles and movements that came before them.
Since the early 20th century, some artists have turned away from realistic representation and the depiction of the human figure, and have moved increasingly towards abstraction.
Contemporary artists, like many artists that preceded them, may acknowledge and find inspiration in art works from previous time periods in both subject matter and formal elements.