What is Contemporary Art? Keys to Understanding

Andy Warhol used non-representational color and representational form to convey different sensations. Apply the same idea to the portrait of Marilyn Monroe below, using the controls to adjust the colors. How does the color affect the mood? (source: http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/marilyns.html)

Contemporary art is often misconcieved as lackluster or lazy art. Many artists like Pablo Picasso started movements in the Contemporary era. They should not be noted as poor artists. They often excelled in fine art, however, they are highly experimental. They would sometimes study one particular mastery while neglecting to introduce the full spectrum of design.

Important keys to understanding Contemporary Art:

  • Originality is important.
  • Artists begin to question traditional definitions of art.
  • Art takes an increasingly intellectual turn in the 20th century.
  • Art becomes difficult to understand.
  • The viewer takes a more prominent position in determining the meaning.
  • The idea behind the art is more important than the physical form.

Want to know how to think like a Contemporary artist? Ask these questions.

  1. What is art?
  2. Who makes art?
  3. What is the function of art?
  4. What is the role of the artist in our society?

Below are a few Contemporary artwork examples:

These are only a few examples and I encourage you to research further. This article is not intended to suffice for a complete academic resource. It is designed to quickly grasp the principles of Contemporary artwork and generate an overall understanding.

Kazimir Malevich, “Black Quadrilateral” 1913


Detaches from everyday life
Used as religious meditation

Marcel Duchamp, “Fountain” 1917 Notes:

Take a ready made object and put it in art context.
Questions the definition of art

Tony Smith, “Die” 1962 Notes:

No trace of self in artwork. Manufactured.
Intellectual  or Difficult to understand

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Blake McCreary, independent designer

An Indianapolis graphic designer specializing in a broad range of design skills, mainly logo/brand identity design. I work with clients around the globe.
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