A: “Contemporary art” is defined formally as art made since 1970 by living artists who are still making new work. People often confuse the term “contemporary art” with “modern art,” but they are not the same. “Modern art” refers to art made during the period between, roughly, the 1860’s to 1970.
Nowadays there are so many different kinds of art – new forms are developing all the time – and almost anything can be considered contemporary art as long as someone, an artist, says it is art. Ours is a fascinating, but bewildering, crazy, and often silly art world. Since I am based in New York, I see a lot that makes me ask, “Is this really art?” and “Why would anyone make such a thing?”
If there is one single element I look for in visual art it would have to be a high degree of craft. I enjoy seeing work that is beautiful, well-crafted, and that makes me wonder how the artist made it. With the exception of Ai Weiwei and Julie Mehretu (maybe others I can’t think of just now), I prefer art made by a single creator, as opposed to artists like Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, who employ dozens of people to make their work.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
I am vitally interested in the man who today has the misfortune of being an artist and a human being. By the same token I am as much interested in the maneuvers of the gangster as I am in those of the financier or the military man. They are all part and parcel of society; some are lauded for their efforts, some reviled, some persecuted and hunted like beasts. In our society the artist is not encouraged, not lauded, not rewarded, unless he makes use of a weapon more powerful than those employed by his adversaries. Such a weapon is not to be found in shops or arsenals: it has to be forged by the artist himself out of his own tissue. When he releases it he also destroys himself. It is the only method he has found to preserve his own kind. From the outset his life is mortgaged. He is a martyr whether he chooses to be or not. He no longer seeks to generate warmth, he seeks for a virus with which society must allow itself to be injected or perish. It does not matter whether he preaches love or hate, freedom or slavery; he must create room to be heard, ears that will hear. He must create, by the sacrifice of his own being, the awareness of a value and a dignity which the word human once connoted. This is not the time to analyze and criticize works of art. This is not the time to see the flowers of genius, differentiate between them, label and categorize. This is the time to accept what is offered and be thankful that something other than mass intolerance, mass suicide, can preoccupy the human intellect.
Henry Miller in Stand Still Like the Hummingbird
Comments are welcome!