Contemporary art 1980 – …

Interest in the subject of ‘craft’ in the contemporary art world grew at the start of the 21st century, as artists with conceptually oriented studio practices increasingly turned to media and processes associated with handicrafts or decorative arts, such as knitting, stitching, weaving, pottery, glass-blowing, and woodworking In this so-called ‘information age’ the sensuous, tactile ‘information’ of craft media spoke of a direct connection to an endangered humanity, or at least to a humanity being rapidly reconfigured in a technologically saturated world Many artists returned to old-fashioned, handmade materials, images, and objects seeking balance in a high-tech world Others were drawn to the familiarity of utilitarian media such as cloth, ceramics, glass, or wood, which are often invisible due to their ubiquity in our everyday lives; they made work that directs audiences’ attention to the extraordinary potential of these seemingly ordinary craft materials and techniques In all cases, these artists entered into a dialogue over the distinctions between ‘art’ and ‘craft’ that have been debated since the early modern era

Contemporary art is the art of today, produced by artists who are living in the twenty-first century Contemporary art provides an opportunity to reflect on contemporary society and the issues relevant to ourselves, and the world around us Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition Diverse and eclectic, contemporary art as a whole is distinguished by the very lack of a uniform, organizing principle, ideology, or ‘ism’ Contemporary art is part of a cultural dialogue that concerns larger contextual frameworks such as personal and cultural identity, family, community, and nationality

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In vernacular English, “modern” and “contemporary” are synonyms, resulting in some conflation of the terms “modern art” and “contemporary art” by non-specialists

Some define contemporary art as art produced within “our lifetime,” recognizing that lifetimes and life spans vary However, there is a recognition that this generic definition is subject to specialized limitations

The classification of “contemporary art” as a special type of art, rather than a general adjectival phrase, goes back to the beginnings of Modernism in the English-speaking world In London, the Contemporary Art Society was founded in 1910 by the critic Roger Fry and others, as a private society for buying works of art to place in public museums A number of other institutions using the term were founded in the 1930s, such as in 1938 the Contemporary Art Society of Adelaide, Australia, and an increasing number after 1945 Many, like the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston changed their names from ones using “Modern art” in this period, as Modernism became defined as a historical art movement, and much “modern” art ceased to be “contemporary” The definition of what is contemporary is naturally always on the move, anchored in the present with a start date that moves forward, and the works the Contemporary Art Society bought in 1910 could no longer be described as contemporary

Contemporary art can sometimes seem at odds with a public that does not feel that art and its institutions share its values In Britain, in the 1990s, contemporary art became a part of popular culture, with artists becoming stars, but this did not lead to a hoped-for “cultural utopia” Some critics like Julian Spalding and Donald Kuspit have suggested that skepticism, even rejection, is a legitimate and reasonable response to much contemporary art Brian Ashbee in an essay called “Art Bollocks” criticizes “much installation art, photography, conceptual art, video and other practices generally called post-modern” as being too dependent on verbal explanations in the form of theoretical discourse