When Did Contemporary Art Begin?

Nobody really knows when the contemporary art era began. People say it was in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was demolished and the Tiananmen Square protests were happening. But others say it was in the 70s, when World War 2 ended or even in the 1910s.

The debate has been going on for years.

If you research how art was categorized over the past decades, you’ll notice that contemporary art is a term that began being used after the 1960s. Before then, it was all about modern art. The usage of that term has drastically faded.

George Baker, an art history professor at UCLA offered a possible explanation. “The fading not of modern art but of ‘modernism’ by the 1950s and 1960s,” and, with the rise of contemporary art, “the emergence of a new pluralism in the 1970s and after.”

In other words, modern art was considered a break from tradition and a development of a new one.

After World War 2, modern art didn’t have any appeal to artists. The idea of progress was distorted due to the effects of the war.

Germans favor 1945 as the start of the contemporary art era. Americans favor sometime around the 1960s. That makes defining the beginning of this era almost impossible.

Today, contemporary art comes in all mediums and sizes. It stretches from videos to objects to exhibits outside of museums.

By the time we figure out when contemporary art began, the era might be already over.