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We are always asked: What is the difference between contemporary art and old masters? In a nutshell, contemporary art is created by artists who are still alive. Old Masters are paintings painted by deceased artists. The good news is that if we buy contemporary art now from well-known, talented artists, the chance is that one day, either we or our children will be proud owners of old masters. The bad news for the artists is that in general, while they live and paint, they rarely get to see the real value of what their paintings are really worth.
Contemporary means "art that has been created and continues to be created throughout our lives." In other words, contemporary to us. Contemporary art is art that is produced during the present time period. Contemporary art includes and develops from postmodern art, which in itself is a successor to modern art.
Strictly speaking, it refers to art created and produced by artists from the 1960s or 70s until this very minute. 1970 is the cut-off point for two reasons. First, because it was around 1970 that the terms "post-modern" and "post-modernism" emerged - which means, we must assume, that the art world had its fullness of modern art. Secondly, 1970 seems to be the last bastion of easily classified artistic movements.
Although it may be difficult to classify emerging movements, contemporary art is much more socially conscious than any previous era. A lot of art from the last 30 years has been linked to one or the other question: feminism, multiculturalism, globalization, biotechnology and AIDS awareness will all easily come to mind as a subject. Today, artists work in and respond to a global environment that is culturally diverse, technologically advanced and multi-faceted.
Works in a wide range of media and contemporary artists often reflect and comment on modern society. When viewers engage in contemporary art, viewers are challenged to ask questions such as "Is a work of art good?" or "Is the work aesthetically pleasing?" Instead, viewers consider whether art is "challenging" or "interesting." Contemporary artists may question traditional ideas about how art is defined, what constitutes art and how art is created, while at the same time creating a dialogue with - and in some cases rejecting - the styles and movements that came before them.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, some artists have turned from realistic representation and portrayal of the human figure and have moved increasingly towards abstraction.
Contemporary artists, like many artists who preceded them, can recognize and find inspiration in works of art from earlier periods in both subject and form elements.