Contemporary means 'present day', or reasonably close. Contemporary art is art produced today according to dictionary definitions.
In regards to art it is easy to break down to one sentence, as it simply means "art that has been and continues to be created during OUR lifetimes".
The key to this is that there is Modern art and Contemporary art are completely separate movements which can be differentiated by the fact that Modern Art comes from the Impressionists time approximately around 1880 up until the 1960's or 70's and ran through a whole plethora of "-isms" like surrealism, realism and expressionism etc. Contemporary Art comes from the 1960's or 70's onwards, until this very moment in time. The two movements are not the same at all although they are often confused by artists and art lovers.
These days artists are mostly working in "movements" that cannot be classified, it is much more socially conscious than any previous era has ever been. In fact art from the last 40 years has been connected with so many issues its hard to recall them all. Issues like feminism, globalisation, environment, terrorism, AIDS awareness, gay rights and so on. There are so many changes and so many fragments its hard for anyone to pinpoint down any particular movements within the contemporary scene as such and can become confusing for those trying to ‘label’ a particular style or genre today.
So the single most important thing anyone needs to know about Contemporary Art is that it's different from Modern Art.
Posted: Thursday 4 March 2010