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6 differences between MODERN and CONTEMPORARY art

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Modern and contemporary art: differences

concepts modern art and contemporary art they are usually used as if they were synonyms and both are usually used to refer to the most recent styles and artistic production, when they have to be called contemporary. But what are the main differences between modern and contemporary art?

In this lesson at we offer you a selection of the ddifferences between modern and contemporary art. Some concepts that it is important to use well in our comments and analysis of works of art to gain accuracy and precision. Join us and discover how to differentiate them!

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  1. What is modern art?
  2. what is the contemporary art?
  3. What are the differences between modern and contemporary art

What is modern art?

Before talking about the differences between modern and contemporary art, it is important to know the meaning of each term.

The modern Art it's a aesthetic concept and we cannot confuse it with what it is not. The art produced during the Modern Age, that is, from the fifteenth to the end of the eighteenth centuries,

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it's not modern art, while some artists of that time and, in general, a large part of the artists of the contemporary era are understood as modern.

Another of the most common errors is to use the expression art as opposed to ancient art, a term that refers to the art of the Ancient Age.

Thus, modern art would be an indefinite period that could start from nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century. There is no consensus on this and, interchangeably, artistic avant-gardes are often referred to as modern or contemporary.

Bearing this in mind, it is better understood that it can commonly be defined as "not modern and contemporary"to an academic artist of the 20th century and to conceptualize as modern artists such as Van Gogh, Goya either Velazquez, among other geniuses of painting prior to the 20th century.

Now that we know what modern art is not and the ambiguity of the term, we can define this type of art as:

  • All that style or artist that supposes innovation versus academicism and tradition.
  • A new way to address the theory and function of art without trying to imitate reality.
Modern and contemporary art: differences - What is modern art?

what is the contemporary art?

You can define the contemporary art As the current moment art, of the time in which we live and that reflects or is inspired by society and current events. A word that encompasses many different practices and that by its very nature is outdated.

Although contemporary art has similarities to modern by putting both into question everything that is conventional and traditional, it is usually framed in what is considered the postmodernity, that is, a series of artistic movements that reinterpret previous works or give them new meanings or points of view, overcoming or opposing modernity.

Furthermore, contemporary art maintains a strong relationship with institutions and the call art market. A way to legitimize and, at the same time, to be able to question that circuit established by museums, art galleries, art fairs, dealers, etc.

Modern and contemporary art: differences - What is contemporary art?

What are the differences between modern and contemporary art.

According to some theorists, these terms would refer to two different chronological momentsyes Thus, under the concept of "modern art" reference is usually made to a period that began in the 1880s, ending in the 1960s, while the term "contemporary" would refer to artistic styles and production from that time to the present.

But, as we shall see, this chronological differentiation is somewhat imprecise, it excessively standardizes a much more complex reality and can lead us into error. That is why it is necessary to resort to more subtle questions. Thus, contemporary art would really start from the first half of the 20th century.

We are facing two aesthetic concepts and establishing chronological limits is really complex and ambiguous. The Main differences between modern and contemporary art are:

  • Modern art focused on the subjective representation of reality, avoiding realism, while contemporary art seeks more attract attention or denounce in their paintings issues and problems that affected the society of the time that touched them or touches them to live.
  • Modern art aspired to pure art as an ideal, while contemporary art left that goal in the background.
  • The contemporary artist questions or overcomes modernity.
  • The contemporary artist moves away from craftsmanship and emphasizes intellectual work.
Modern and contemporary art: differences - What are the differences between modern and contemporary art

If you want to read more articles similar to Modern and contemporary art: differences, we recommend that you enter our category of History.


  • ARGAN, Giulio Carlo. Modern art. AKAL editions, 2004.
  • CAUQUELIN, Anne. Contemporary art. Cruz O. Publications, SA, 2002.
  • DANTO, Arthur; DANTO, A. Modern, postmodern and contemporary. Danto, A., After the end of art. Contemporary art and the edge of history, 1999, p. 24-41.
  • HOFMANN, Werner. The foundations of modern art. Barcelona: Edition, 1992, vol. 62.
  • PARDO, Jose Luis. How do you become a contemporary artist? Alma Mater Cultural Agenda, 2015, no 226.
  • PARAGA, Teresa Gutierrez. The game in modern and contemporary art. Art, Individual and Society, 2009, vol. 21, p. 51-71.
  • ROJZMAN, Nuria Peist. The process of consecration in modern art: artistic trajectories and circles of recognition. Matter. International Magazine d'Art, 2005, no 5, p. 17-43.
  • RUIZ HERNANDO, Jose Antonio. Modern and Contemporary Art. 1990.
  • SARA, Maria Eleanor. Modern and contemporary art, looking for the evidence. Open Doors, 2009.
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