Modern vs Contemporary Art

Hi everyone and welcome back to Exploring Art, this is Alessandro. Today we are gonna be talking about Modern Art versus Contemporary Art.

The main problem is that modern and contemporary are synonyms. In fact, they both mean current, the present or now, but not in Art.

Modern Art origins

Modern Art is actually not modern at all, not anymore at least. It is pretty old since it started roughly during the Industrial Revolution around the 1860s on the attempt of creating something new revolutionizing the visual arts. Artists started experimenting with abstraction and that opened many scenarios, opportunities and art styles.

And when I say many it is many, many. There was a sort of rush on creating something new, impacting on the society with shocking approaches .

Starry Night - Van Gogh - Modern Art
Starry Night - Van Gogh

Photography Modern vs Contemporary Art

Photography had an important role as well since, for the first time, it was possible to replicate a scene in one simple gesture. However, I disagree with a common opinion that says that artists didn’t see the point in trying to copy reality anymore and the research of abstraction was a sort of reaction to that.

I think the situation was more complex and the social changes brought to the desire and opportunity to take new roads.

A Bar at the Folies Bergère - Edouard Manet
A Bar at the Folies Bergère - Edouard Manet


And one of the first and well-known movement is for sure the Impressionism of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, followed by many “ISMs” like Pointillism, Divisionism, Symbolism, Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism.

“ISMs” examples - Modern Art

All of them had specific goals and styles, but whenever you hear an “ISM” is a good hint to guess it’s a Modern Art movement. Modern vs Contemporary Art


Contemporary Art

Movements that continued to experiment with art medium like drawing, painting and sculpture until around the 1970s when Contemporary Art began and it started pushing art to the new mediums. For example: video art, performance art, installation art, virtual art in a complete diverse, personal and eclectic way.

Video Sculpture - Nam June Paik - Contemporary Art
Video Sculpture - Nam June Paik

Contemporary Art broke in fact with movements, ideologies and “ISMS” on the attempt of making unique pieces of art as a free expression of the artists’ talent, needs, culture, social issues.

Video Sculpture - Nam June Paik

Of course, there is not an exact moment when Modern Art ended and Contemporary Art started. However, now you have some elements that can help you to distinguish the two and we’ll find out soon more about them, so stay updated and don’t forget to check my social medias where you can see also some of my “contemporary” creations that are available also on Patreon. See you in few days!

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