What Is The Difference Between Modern & Contemporary Art?

Let’s settle this once and for all; there is most definitely a noticeable difference between modern art and contemporary art, and not only visually. From a conceptual standpoint, the two are vastly different, drawing upon different techniques, different visions, and even different schools of art.

For instance, the modernist obsession of the grid helped to lead the way of the modernist movement for nearly 50 years. Many modernists worked within the confines of the grid, either consciously or unconsciously. The movement lasted up until the 1960’s, where the post-modernists began to completely challenge and reject the idea of traditional modernists, paving the way for the contemporary art movement.

The contemporary period emerged slightly after and broke away from the abstract expressionist’s view of “high art” and instead, began to focus on work that maintained more of a social narrative, challenging the social, political, and economic norms set by contemporary society.


Modern Art

Some of the most notable examples of modern art include artists from the late 1800’s like Van Gogh, Manet, and others. Modern art was obsessed with the idea of exploring “pure art,” or in other words, art that moved away from traditional religious influences. Art became more about the idea of making rather than the narrative form.

For nearly a full century, modern art helped to split the art world from “high art” and “kitsch.” While the art world was highly susceptible to the modernist movement, it began to lose steam after the second world war, when the world experienced political, social, and economic turmoil beginning with the 1960’s.


Contemporary Art

Notable artists of the contemporary art movement include artists from the 1960’s and onwards to the present day. These artists were born out of the previous generation who helped to pave the way for the modernist vision, so they were well aware of what modern art had done to the art world and had sought to reject these traditions in seek of their own style.

Contemporary art works to reject the notion of “high art” and instead focuses on bringing contemporary societal aspects into the work. Contemporary artists have much more freedom in the way in which they choose to approach their work. For example, it is practiced across a massive range of mediums, including the traditional mediums of painting, sculpture, drawing, and photography, as well as more emerging media such as video, audio, and multi-media installation.


Forest Gallery

Forest Gallery is a leading art gallery within the United Kingdom for contemporary artists. We specialise in original paintings, and offer our clients a wide variety of contemporary art and traditional artworks showcased from carefully selected British artists and international talent.

Our online art gallery allows our clients to shop from the comforts of their own home for original works of contemporary art. For over 30 years, Forest Gallery has built a name as one of the UK’s leading independent art galleries.

View our current contemporary abstract paintings here or click below to see Kevin Burton’s artwork featured in this article:


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