Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Gallery Without Walls

A bi-monthly art blog by Margaret Danielak
Author of A Gallery Without Walls (ArtNetwork Press)

What is the exact definition of the word “contemporary” in “contemporary art?”

Is it (1) art created by living artists, (2) modern art, (3) art created in modern times (since World War II), or simply (4) art that goes bump in the night?

According to my friend, a museum curator in Northern California, contemporary art is art of the present time. In other words, contemporary means now.

In addition, he said, “the word contemporary does not refer to a particular school or style of art.” You can say contemporary realism, contemporary portraiture, contemporary landscapes, and the works will be contemporary only because you created them in the present time - obviating the need for the word “contemporary.” Saying your work is contemporary will not indicate that the pieces necessarily look like abstract expressionist works.

I asked one of the artists I represent what her definition was, and she said “contemporary art is art created by living artists.”

This sounded good to me.

Then I thought, what does WIKIEPEDIA, the online encyclopedia, say?

“The term contemporary art encompasses all art being done now. It tends to include any art made from around the 1960s to the present, or after the end of the modern art period. The use of the literal adjective "contemporary" to define this period in art history is due to the lack of any recognized or dominant form or genre of art as recognized by artists or art historians and critics.“ http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&defl=en&q=define:contemporary+art&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

What does the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) say? On their current website, they claim that they exhibit art created since 1940. They explain their mission: “MOCA identifies and supports the most significant and challenging art of its time, places it in historical context, and links the range of the visual arts to contemporary culture. MOCA provides leadership by actively fostering and presenting new work, emerging media, and original scholarship.”

Excellent - it sounds reasonable, except I have been to their shows. Can’t say I’ve been aware of an over abundance of representational artwork.

Another friend said “contemporary art is art that is expensive, inexplicable, and far out. It is art that requires one to sing songs and sling pudding on the walls.” (And yes, creating batches of chocolate pudding – and then throwing it on the walls - was indeed required of the gallery assistant who recently took over my friend’s job at a contemporary art gallery in New York).

So, after doing this research, I think I can say with conviction that contemporary art is art created since 1940, with a special emphasis on art created since 1960, by artists who may have died, unfortunately, while waiting for this definition to solidify in our culture. In addition, contemporary art is art created by living artists who may or may not be creating representational art, but are most definitely creating art that stimulates the senses, and perhaps even tastes good.

Bon Appetit!



Rotating Your Contemporary Art Collection

© 2007 Margaret Danielak
Margaret Danielak is an art rep, author and lecturer. She is the author of the highly rated handbook for fine artists: A GALLERY WITHOUT WALLS published by ArtNetwork Press. She may be reached at 626-683-9922 or via email at Margaret.danielak@google.com Her website is www.danielakart.com