What Is Contemporary Art? Definition and Examples

Posted by Robert Lange on

What is contemporary art? The term refers to all the art produced from the second half of the 20th century until now. Therefore, it encompasses a diverse range of styles which reflect the rapidly evolving modern world. In this article, we explore the intricacies of contemporary art, define what it means, and present examples – we invite you to read on.

What Is Contemporary Art?

The definition of contemporary art is simple: it is basically any art made since the start of the Modern Art movement (second half of the 20th century). However, contemporary art does not mean only the time period – it also refers to the style adopted by the artists. A style that is difficult to define clearly due to its vibrant diversity.

It may be said that the concept of contemporary art involves challenging the nature of artwork itself. But, to define the specifics is a nearly impossible task. Contemporary artists use various materials and media and focus on a wide array of concepts, often unseen before. After all, unlike the previous generations of artists, contemporary ones are not influenced by religion, myths, or the demands of their patrons; instead, they draw their inspiration from their own culture, politics, fashion, trends, or everyday lives.

This also means that there is no shared starting point or unified perspective for contemporary art. Instead, there’s a multitude of approaches which build a complex image of present-day life. This is further reflected in the themes tackled by contemporary artists:

  • the body,
  • identity,
  • technology,
  • globalization,
  • migration,
  • society,
  • culture,
  • memory,
  • passage of time,
  • etc.

What Are the Main Contemporary Art Movements?

To navigate the diversity of contemporary art, it has been divided into several movements based on the styles, approaches, and tools used to create modern masterpieces. Let us explore what contemporary means in art in practice and take a short glance at each of these movements.

Pop Art

Represented by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Pop Art has its roots in both the US and the UK. This movement has its sights set on portraying mass culture and reimagining commercial products, turning them into art.

Pop Art dates back to the 1950s. However, it soon lost its importance and popularity until it was reborn in the 1980s as Neo-Pop Art.


This movement, represented by Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter, is aimed at creating paintings and drawings that are hyper-realistic, or in simple words: resemble photo quality.


Shaped by Pop Art, this movement rejects the idea of art as a commodity, claiming that the concept behind a work of art is its core. Conceptualism is represented by Damien Hirst and has only recently become more popular, as most works of this movement date back to the early 2000s. Nevertheless, the movement was born already in the 1960s.


Simple, abstract, and aesthetic – these three adjectives describe minimalism perfectly. Embraced by such artists as Donald Judd or Sol Le Witt, this movement was started in the 1960s and aims to encourage the viewers to respond to what they see rather than what they believe an artwork is all about.

Performance Art

As the name suggests, this movement (again, from the 1960s) is all about the performance given by the artist. However, the meaning of such performances isn’t to entertain but rather to convey a message. Performance art is represented by Marina Abramović or Yoko Ono.

Street Art

We mustn’t forget street art, one of the most recent and most praised contemporary art movements. Originating in the 1980s, street art is often closely related to social activism and includes forms like murals, installations, stenciled images, and stickers in public spaces. The most well-known representative of this movement is Banksy.

Installation and Earth Art

We put these two together as earth art derives directly from the installation art. Both are focused on 3D constructions that change the viewer’s surroundings and affect their perception of space. The difference between these two is simple: in earth art it’s landscapes that are transformed (hence it’s commonly referred to as land art).

contemporary art definition

THIS IS THE WAY - Robert Lange

Examples of Contemporary Art

If you wish to view magnificent examples of contemporary art, we would like to invite you to our exhibits section. You will be able to access hundreds of beautiful paintings there and admire the diversity of contemporary artworks.

The Takeaway

What is contemporary art, and what is considered as it? Let’s sum this article up. In general, we could say that contemporary art refers to any artworks prepared between the 1950s and now. The style of contemporary art is diverse and incorporates various movements, each of them with a completely different approach towards art.

Did you find this article inspiring? If yes, we recommend our other post: How to Star Collecting Art? Guide for Beginners

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