Contemporary art may serve as a basis for various associations not only for ordinary people but also for the most complicated and knowledgeable connoisseurs of avant-garde direction in art such as abstract painting, enigmatic performances, unusual sculptures, shocking exhibitions or scandalous actions. Frequently, the viewer has the feeling of a loss, when there is absolutely nothing clear about what is shown in museums. Therefore, the paper focuses on the nature of contemporary art and proves that it is contradictory, multifaceted, and mobile.
Contemporary Art: A Definition
As a rule, contemporary art means precisely the new types and forms of creative works that emerged in the 20th century and that continue to emerge so far – actionism, performance art, video art, and many other artistic practices that are different from the traditional forms of art such as painting or creating statues and buildings. It should be noted that not everything produced in traditional techniques is art, but it is a separate issue.
Art implies limitations, within which the artist can find freedom. In new practices there is no limitation that generates not freedom but permissiveness. Firstly, art always involves the continuity of form and content, and, secondly, the craft component, which is just absent in new practices. Therefore, the singularity and uniqueness of creation is determined by personal skill and individuality of an artist.
The process of erosion of the notion of art in the 20th century, and, as a consequence, the very necessity of the term ‘contemporary art’ are associated with the quality category that has lost its meaning. In fact, everyone can become a contemporary artist. The purpose of contemporary art is not the creation of a masterpiece of art, for it is indifferent inner connection of form and content, and they do not determine each other (Gaiger 189). In modern art, the content aspect is emphasized and the value of the form is ignored. Therefore, it is unthinkable without the accompanying commentary and it needs self-affirmation. For instance, the viewer may like or dislike Picasso painting, he can understand or not understand the artist’s work, but he cannot deny his mastery simply because he cannot do something like that. The status of contemporary art, its recognition as an art is solely approved from outside by society.
The Essence of the Concepts of Modern and Contemporary Art
One of the most important issues is the conceptual and chronological distinction of modern and contemporary art. Within the art history context, the phrase ‘modern art’ is generally referred to as the theory and practice of art. It emerged essentially in Western Europe and North America. The period of its appearance is known to range from the 1860s to the late 1960s. In addition to this, this timeframe is associated with the epoch of Modernism (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 31). Modern art is generally determined in terms of numerous styles, periods, and linear development of artistic schools. They were comprised of such directions in art as Abstract Expressionism, Impressionism, and Cubism that obtained great popularity (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 34). In all-purpose practice, the significant overlie and bewilderment between the concepts of ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ were noticed by the investigators in the field of art. Thus, it seems to be suitable to note that both of them are to be referred to as the present and recent past of art (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 35).
The concept of ‘contemporary art’ is believed to be referred to as a contemporary and very fresh performance of artworks in practice. Being credited to emerge around the period of the 1970s until present, contemporary art is also connected with the art forms and art works that have been created by the artists who are still alive (Gaiger 37). The direction of contemporary art has a tendency to be evaluated according to its themes and subjects. Under these conditions, it is also significant to draw on the theoretical and practical disciplines’ lengthened variety. As a consequence, contemporary art is hypothetically driven by both theory and ideas (Gaiger 40).
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For instance, the Centre Pompidou exhibits its collections in the context of modern and contemporary art as two separate areas. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is focused on a similar time frame, beginning from 1940 (Gaiger 96). However, Christie’s Auction defines contemporary art period as beginning from 1970 (Gaiger 96). It is not so much in the concept of translation from English into other languages, but in understanding of the fundamental difference between their chronological conditionality in different countries (Gaiger 98).
The Most Common Misconceptions About Contemporary Art:
Mastery (A Painter Must be Able to Draw)
Many people are convinced that the degree of skill of an artist defines professionalism. Perhaps, this is one of the most widespread anachronisms in relation to art. To perceive an idea, a clear form is needed (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 96). However, this form is not essentially required to be performed by hand – it can be photography, performance, video, text, installation of found objects, and so on.(Tuymans).
A contemporary Belgian painter, Luc Tuymans, stretches the canvas deliberately shoddy, paints fragments of various objects carelessly and faded, making banal images that seem eerie and mysterious. The artist uses paint, to which he frequently adds mud, sand, and dust.
Beauty (Art Supplies the Beauty)
Art cannot be currently linked with the category of beauty only as this is the design. Today’s art is a means of cognition, a form of thinking about the world. However, nobody canceled observation of the beautiful in the real world by means of art.
In particular, one of the best tools used by artists is a camera. German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans feels the aesthetic changes in the world like no other (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 57). He analyzes and archives the reality and its frequently barely sensible beauty.
Design (Contemporary Art as an Absurd of Form and Image)
When the viewer finds no association with a particular art object and its shape or image cannot be explained, he calls them preposterous.
Style (Good Artist Is That One Who Is Recognized)
‘Recognizable hand’ of the artist can now be read by experts as evidence of his narrow-mindedness. The special signature style is profitable for commercial success. Although individualism and authorship are still important elements of art.
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Daniel Buren, for instance, limited himself by a radical creative strategy that became his distinctive mark: having abandoned a figurative depiction, he focused on the image of exclusively alternating white and colored stripes (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 59). Moreover, this restriction did not bind an artist as he created a huge number of different works. Just these stripes became the hallmark of the author.
Money (The More Expensive the Work Is, the Better)
Price is one of the most objective criteria for evaluating the work of art. However, this is not always the case (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 46). Some artists are inscribed in all textbooks on art, but their works are almost impossible to sell.
Taboo (Contemporary Art is “Blood” and “Outrageous”)
Political, aesthetic, moral, religious taboos will always exist, and it is critical for art to fight them.
Social Art (Art of Relations Is an Art?)
Socially engaged art is frequently accused of having nothing to do with art. However, it is very difficult to attribute such actions to anything else than art. Experts point out that is impossible to evaluate such actions, relying solely on aesthetic categories, and offer to evaluate this art based on ethics (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 31). They emphasize the autonomy and independence of art, illustrating it by images of a “free stage” and “imaginary bullhorn” (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 31).
Relevance (What Is Contemporary, Current, Postmodern?)
The confusion in the terminology of contemporary art is common. The notion of current (contemporary) many people identify with fashion. In fact, current is responsive to the modern aesthetic, social, and political problems (Chilvers and Glaves-Smith 32). Modern is also called all the post-war art, until the present day. In addition, many people are wrong when they call contemporary art ‘post-modern’. The term ‘postmodernism’ is outdated and it does not apply today.
Work (How a Profanation Can Be a Work of Art?)
Chaos in terminology is also observed concerning the concepts of creative work, piece of art, and work of art. Everything is simple. If someone wanted and painted a wash drawing, it is a creative work. Therefore, if the author exposes the wash drawing in the exhibition space, masters presentation conditions, and brings his work for the viewer’s discussion, an art object can be safely renamed into piece of art. It has a certain attitude toward art as a system, albeit indirectly. However, this work cannot be called a work of art in any case.
Contemporary art allows people to see not everyday, understandable picture of the world and shows all its complexity and contradictions. It makes people think, actively use their brains. Representatives of contemporary art borrow artistic devices from other areas of activity, turning them into a provocative gesture, suggesting the viewer either as a co-creator, or as a ‘partner’ of the creative process of artist statements. On the one hand, it annihilates the concepts of spirituality, morality, and moral, while on the other hand, it accepts their essential features as an unattainable ideal. As a rule, such means of reproduction have the nature of the provocation.
To sum up, for a contemporary artist, there is almost no material, with which he will not be able to work in the future. With all the odiousness and unacceptability of the most radical works of postmodern art, it implements the basic function – it makes person think about the attitude to himself, to the world that surrounds him, to the reasons that this world looks exactly this way. Moreover, the art of modernism and postmodernism effectively acts as a catalyst of human identity. It affects ‘by contradiction’, but acts very powerfully. Only when faced with a distorting mirror of this outrageous, anti-aesthetic art, people clearly feel their ethical essence.