What Is Contemporary Art?

contemporary art definition

Art is what makes life beautiful, captivating, and interesting. Art is everywhere. You can elevate your perception and understanding of art by researching its history and context. We have outlined some key information about contemporary and modern art to help you take your artistic knowledge to the next level!

Contemporary Art Definition

Contemporary is defined as something existing or occurring all at once. Art is defined as “the expression of a person’s imagination or creative skill” This can be accomplished through visual art or other performing art forms. In short, contemporary art is a collection of creative works that are happening now in the present moment. The moment is always evolving. There are many different types of contemporary art. This style of art is viewed as refreshing and relatable. It is a true reflection of the times and can act as a voice for the people, environment, and the state of the world.

Definition of Contemporary Artist

A contemporary artist, much like their work, is producing art that is saying something now. These artists often use their work as a vessel to convey emotion, a certain aesthetic, or a powerful statement. Their characteristics often include boldness, being wildly creative, deep thinkers, and a willingness to share with the world. Contemporary artists help us understand the world through their elevated lens. They often explore different types of contemporary art on their journey.

Characteristics of Contemporary Art

types of modern art
  • happening now
  • unique
  • innovative
  • current
  • bold
  • tells a story

Modern Art vs Contemporary Art

Many experts mark the origin of modern art in the West within the 1860s, continuing to approximately the 1960s. Therefore, contemporary art means art made closer to the present day following that time period. The contemporary art time period exists in the now. Although these art genres share similarities, the difference in the time period is a distinct marker that divides the two. These two styles and periods of creation are appreciated greatly in museums, bodies of work, and daily life.

Contemporary Art Movements and Contemporary Art Genres

There are contemporary art styles for every art-lover! Contemporary art can be sourced in these many diverse mediums.

Street Art

street art

Street art is unofficial and at times considered illegal art created in public places for the public to witness and consume. This new form is increasingly growing in popularity. Artists use graffiti methods like tagging, painting, stenciling, manmade art installations, and stickers to create their often temporary works in prime locations. These pieces often make a statement alone by serving as a protest against typical art culture. Artists like Banksy are taking the art scene by storm and the anonymous artist has developed one of the most distinct and sought after graffiti styles in street art history. You can find walls covered with his trademark pieces all over the world. Street art is art for everyone.

Pop Art

pop art

A movement that came into play during the mid-20th century where artists began using pedestrian and ordinary objects—soup cans, comic strips, household items, newspapers, and more— within their work. This movement aimed to emphasize the idea that art can draw from any source, even the most simple, common, everyday items. Andy Warhol’s work is a prime example of this style. His highly acclaimed and valuable work is displayed globally.


types of contemporary art

In this form of art, the concept takes importance over the literal interpretation of what is there. The why and how is more integral than the what. When a creator produces a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the choices are made intentionally beforehand and the execution must be done specifically. This type of work is about seeing the bigger picture. Marcel Duchamp is a famous conceptualism-focused artist.

Earth Art

definition of contemporary artist

Plain and simple. Art, that appreciates the natural world and all the sustained beauty it has to offer. Earth art can be art that is made within a landscape, sculpting the land itself into works of art and cool structures or incorporating natural materials such as plants, rocks, or twigs. Robert Smithson is a well-known earth artist.


characteristics of contemporary art

Installation art is an artistic style of works that are often site-specific and designed to transform how we perceive locations, life, and space. These creations often coexist with the environment, integrating with reality seamlessly. The possibilities are endless within this structure. Often artists use real-life people in installations or objects that create a movement of their own.

Performance Art

contemporary art time period

Artwork or an exhibition derived from a movement executed by the artist or other participants. It can be created live, through media or written, presented to an audience, or interdisciplinary. This includes dance, music, poetry, plays, etc. Marina Abramović is famous for her installation at the MoMA where she sat for hours and days looking at strangers in the eye one at a time. This was an extremely powerful moment within this category of art.



A form of art that includes drawing, painting, and other media types, in which an artist studies a photograph and then tries to recreate the image as realistically and exactly as possible in another medium. Photos tell stories and the artist writes them in a new way.


modern art types

Minimalism is an extreme form of abstract art and was groundbreaking given its time. This art is abstract and does give you exact answers. It is simple and up for your interpretation.

Types of Modern Art

Many different modern art styles have existed over time. Here are some movements from the past and modern art movements today.

Abstract Ideas

abstract art

The vagueness of this style can leave a lot up to your imagination. This art is for your inner child to wander through. This genre requires you to be introspective and see beyond what is in front of you. Drawing emotion from colors, lines, and shapes that draw attention. This style is liberating for the artist and the viewer. Many famous artists and types of modern art styles exist under the umbrella of the abstract category.


different types of contemporary art

This art is more about the idea than the product. It is the why over what. This art is for deep thinkers and those that wish to convey a concept without spelling it out.

Figurative Paintings

Figurative Paintings

Inspired by realism or the artist’s imagination, this form focuses on details and articulation. You want to feel like you could reach out and touch a painted hand because it is just that good. Each artist can express their unique modern art painting styles through the lens of this genre.


types of modern art styles

Many artists over the years have exemplified a strong connection between their work and a higher power. Many religious figures and moments in history are depicted in the famous works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Still Life

different modern art styles

The famous paintings of fruit baskets. In these paintings, the fruit is depicted as full of life without movement. This art focuses on harnessing the colors and details found in inanimate objects. That’s all you need to know!

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