The word Contemporary in art does not merely mean art that is created at the time of consideration. The term can loosely replace the term Modern Art and it is applied to any media that can be considered an art form. These media include painting, sculpture, photography, performance art, architecture, fashion, and print making.
Generally, Contemporary Art is art that has been produced since the 1960s or 1970s until the present. The 1960s and 1970s are considered the start date simply because it was around this time that the terms Postmodern and Postmodernism came into use and it was also around this time that definable art styles and movements were not apparent or easily classified.
Almost anything can be considered art these days. There is so much out there that the average person looks at and says, “THAT is art? My five-year-old could make that.” However, there have been some amazing creations made in Contemporary Art and this movement is the true representative of life in the 20th and now 21st centuries. This all brings up the question of whether the art is “serious” art or “good” art. This is difficult to judge at times as the art is so fresh.
Contemporary art holds such a broad arena of art styles that the focus cannot be placed solely on the traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture. The visual arts now include even more innovative media such as video art, installation art, and unconventional sculpture.
One of the most prestigious awards for Contemporary Art today is the Turner Prize, a British art award that recognizes ingenuity and boldness in all Contemporary Art forms. While the art is sometimes controversial and criticized, it is always unique and inspiring. The candidates for the Turner Prize have created some highly unusual art, although many would not term it so. This includes the 2005 winner, Simon Starling, who converted a shed into a boat, sailed it down the Rhine River, and then turned it back into a shed. Other exhibits have included an empty room with the lights being turned on and off, a disheveled bed with various indicators of a good time, and a group of people dressed as police officers and standing in silence for an hour (the 1997 winner).
Technology also allows for digital art. This refers to any art that is created on a computer, either directly, in the form of a scanned photograph, or using vector graphics software. Digital art is commonly used in advertising and has also made an impact on the publishing world. There has been extensive software development for the digital art world, particularly when it comes to photograph manipulation. This form of digital art allows the artist to create art from a photograph often to the point where the original photograph is barely recognizable.
Digital art has yet to gain a reputation as a serious and respectable art form simply because it is often assumed that it is the computer that does all the work. While there is no brush technique involved, there is still a person controlling the program and who has the talent and vision to create a beautiful image.
Despite the new and flashy technology that has allowed for an expansion of art styles and even changed how many people view art, there has been a revival of Realistic painting. Realism proper came about in the mid to late 19th century and came along with the introduction of photography. It was a way to depict life just on life’s terms, just as it was viewed, with no emotional overlay. It seems that artists are once again returning to Realism, in an effort to save the good name of art.
The Art Renewal Center (ARC) is an online Museum, which displays thousands of works by current artists. The ARC is devoted to bringing back the standards in art and the training that was once such an integral part of becoming an accomplished artist. They are also dedicated to bringing back into awareness the techniques of the old masters and the high standards of the art establishment prior to the 20th century. This applies to every aspect of traditional art including painting, sculpture, and drawing.
The place that Contemporary Art will ultimately have in the grand scheme of art history is not yet known. Contemporary Art is still current and we have yet to see what movements it will influence in the future. All art movements were contemporary at one time in history. Some of them were recognized or established themselves right away as a distinct movement, but hindsight is the only true way to be able to see the impact and form of an art movement. Thus, it is only time that will tell what impact our Contemporary Art movement will have on the world and future art.