As a new collector, this simple question is often difficult to answer. More people are comfortable defining Impressionist art, or Classical art, which is widely recognizable and defined by clear themes and styles. But contemporary art is far more popular (and accessible) to collectors around the world, so the question demands some type of response, despite the challenges of its conceptual nature.
When you ask, ”What is contemporary art?” you are really asking two questions: what is contemporary, and what is art. Neither one has a firm definition accepted by every gallerist, auction house, artist, academic, and critic, but from a collecting perspective, one can look to the international art market for clues.
First, the term contemporary: when does “modern”, or “post-war”, or “20th century” art transition into “contemporary”? Some people believe that contemporary art is created by an artist who is still living, but that excludes brand-name artists like Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as any artist who passes away tragically young. The same artists are excluded if the definition is an artist born after World War II.
Hirst's famous butterfly collages turn an unexpected medium normally reserved to zoology into stunning artworks.
Thus, the easier definition is a reference of when the piece itself, or majority of the artist’s oeuvre, was created. To that end, the secondary market provides a guide to accepted divisions, but even the major auction houses categorize their sales differently. Sotheby’s offers a “Contemporary Art” sale, but Christie’s uses the term “Post-War and Contemporary Read more...