Why You Should Take An Interest in Contemporary Art


Around this time last year I uploaded an article about the benefits of studying the history of art and what you can do with it. Since then, I have graduated with a bachelors degree in art history and have made most of my way through a masters degree in contemporary art theory, a subject which, like the history of art, people seem to want to question the use of. So, I thought I might enlighten the internet in the very best way that I can and write a new piece about just why contemporary art is so important.

Firstly, the art that is being made today is extremely political. Contemporary artists from all over the world are using their artwork as a tool to address issues within society. Artwork today tackles such issues as religion, globalisation, feminism and mental health. Many of the exhibitions being curated by students and emerging artists today have been staged in a political direction with the aim of making their audiences pause to think about the society that they are living in. Often, artwork is abstract and difficult to read, however, we must remind ourselves that contemporary art is being produced within the same society that we are also living in, and therefore, in some ways, it can be understood to communicate with us in a way that it is not possible for a historical work to do so.

Furthermore, there are artists today who are living under repressive regimes that use art to speak out and convey a message that they may not be able to do in any other way. Ai Weiwei is just one example of an artist who is also an activist. Similarly, Palestinian artist Laila Shawa uses imagery to draw attention to the situation in her homeland.

There are many art appreciators today who claim to only be moved by one historical movement of art. Yet surely they should be keen to see how famed historical artists have influenced a new generation of artists. Art history is just the starting point – its legacy lives on in contemporary art.

The art of today is increasingly abstract. It does not give us the answers immediately and there is often a lack of any readable narrative. Contemporary art forces the viewer to ask questions about just what defines art. This art is also transcending the historical forms of painting and sculpture. We are now becoming more and more acquainted with installation, film and performance. Thus, contemporary art also introduces us to new modes of technology and communication that simply was not possible in the past.

Finally, contemporary art is also a valuable form of investment. During the recession the art market continued to thrive and it must be noted that the majority of the turnover generated within fine art auctions comes from the sale of contemporary art. Therefore, contemporary art is also a valuable asset not be looked down on.

I will conclude simply by stating that contemporary art is not just political, it is a tool of influence and an object of both monetary and visual value.

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and has written for After Nyne, Arteviste, Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, ReOrient and Suitcase Magazine. Lizzy is also curator of Arab Women Artists Now - AWAN 2018 (London).

8 thoughts on “Why You Should Take An Interest in Contemporary Art

  1. ‘…many appreciators only moved by one historical movement of art’.

    Brian Sewell, who’s disappointed by everything since Titian, we’re lookin’ at you!

  2. I think this point is what stands out for me: “it can be understood to communicate with us in a way that it is not possible for a historical work to do so.” I also think art communicates in a way – that’s affective, non-verbal, aesthetic, powerful – unlike the media stream we have around us all the time. Art makes us stop and make the effort to understand another language.

  3. Hello Lizzy! Excellent article!
    Would you be interested in republishing the content of this article on Art History Lab in a different format and under a different title? Paid, of course.

    All the best,

    Alin

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