Understanding the definition of Modern Art 'today'

Updated: Mar 7

When we think of art, design, and developments, society often uses broader definitions that are not necessarily understood in their full definition. Instead, they are expressed as a particular look they feel is a useful descriptive word.


Grasping the backdrop.

Being an artist involves many hats. I manage my inventory, documentation, site, research, writing, exhibitions and studio practice. After completing my studies in art, I worked as a manager in several art galleries. As a result, I had a fantastic opportunity to engage with local and international art lovers and collectors with whom many conversations were exchanged.

In having these conversations and better understanding the kinds of styles that people often wanted to refer to, I realized that particular aesthetics and qualities in the art are often expressed by society as modern art, often overlapping by definition with thinking abstract is a classification of an era, that modern is current and contemporary art is abstract art. I found that the greater public generally tends to think of art that is not purely created for representational purposes or classical as modern art.

Modern art was rooted in the 1850s to the 1950s, which is the era before contemporary art started just after World war II as many historians have defined the time-frames. Modern art can be seen as an umbrella for several movements; impressionism, futurism, expressionism, cubism, surrealism, and outsider art, amongst others. The development of photography encouraged artists to rethink the role of art. Modern art consists of numerous movements with one overlapping aspect - they each moved away from purely figurative art, which had the objective of likeness at heart, as we find in classical art. The objective of producing art was no longer to reflect reality as faithfully as possible but rather to criticize, query, and represent the world in a new way, exposing all of its contradictions and complexities.

In referencing contemporary art being defined as “the art of today,” the term broadly includes art created during the late 20th and the early 21st centuries. Contemporary art can be defined as art produced after the Modern Art movement until the present day. We must understand that modern art is not capsuled in a specific time frame as it is still being created, and the genre of art does have its own approach or style that distinguishes it from others. Many argue that modern art’s basic approach and goal is to challenge the nature of the artwork itself. Modern art’s objective can be to make the viewer question precisely what defines the art. The movement is challenging to define as it encompasses such variety. Due to the aforementioned, the modern art style is not exceptionally uniform, and many say it is more challenging to precisely describe than any other genre of art. Additionally, there are several significant reasons as to why contemporary art is vital within society and is defined separately from modern art. In the present, art has evolved to express and provide social and cultural commentary. In a manner, the wheel will always be reinvented.