This Is The Difference Between ‘Modern’ And ‘Contemporary’ Art

Even though most people are using ‘modern art’ and ‘contemporary art’ interchangeably when referring to modernized art, these two terms are not the same. According to art historians, they do have a difference which is based on date ranges.

Critics consider ‘modern’ the art that was created between the 1870s and the 1960s. After the 1960s, we have the end of the modernism period as we get into the contemporary era. But beyond that, we also have conceptual differences between the two ages.

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Modern art is called that way because it did not rely on previous teachings and styles that were being taught in the art academies. It started when artists started depicting scenes of modern life but by not using traditional means. For example, they were using a paint brush to draw their paints on canvas which lead to different, more distinct and signature techniques and a lot of experimentation. This created several movements (impressionism, surrealism, abstract expressionism etc) which were all based on drawing attention to the medium.


Contemporary art, is much more difficult to define. Yes, it’s the art made after the 1960s but it’s much more than that. Artists defined their work based on their personal quests, something that created enormous styles and possibilities. One key difference between ‘contemporary’ and ‘modern’ art is the shift from aesthetic beauty to the concept of the art. This is why, in contemporary art, the technique is not so important – the concept of the work is of much more significance.

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Photo: Free Cubist 108 3636 Zeus / Thomas C. FedroKazuo Shiraga
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Sources: What’s the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Art?Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Art

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