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What Does the word contemporary Mean and how is it related to art?

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What is “contemporary”?

When things happen, occur or stays and finishes at the same time, then they’re known as contemporary to each other. Can contemporary be shared the same meaning as modern or current? Well, probably yes. But, it always depends upon what is being defined as contemporary. Like all forms of art, paintings are contemporary too. Let us dig deep to find out the context, or rather the meaning of contemporary art.

What is contemporary art?

Well, as the word in itself is an explanatory term, as it is the art of the present day. The day in which we exist, produced in the late 20th century too and still witnessing the making.

If we a travel to the 19th century, it was the time of national museums and national art history. Technology is advanced, cultures have become diverse, and markets have become global. These are the factors that influence a contemporary artist to pursue painting. The omnipresent concept of history also led to the invention of the discipline of art history, which was not least based on exclusion and therefore at the same time drew the invention of colonial ethnology. In the twentieth century, an international avant-garde opposed the old nationalisms and at the same time appropriated the “primitive art” of others as a stimulus. Behind it stood a hegemonic modernity that declared its concept of art universal. But now, in the 21st century, an art is emerging worldwide with the claim to global contemporaneity without borders and without history. 

mrinmoy barua, contemporary

This art is no longer synonymous with modern art. It sets itself in opposition to the modern, and so it is no coincidence that both in the naming of museums and in the catalogs of the auction houses the term “modern” is replaced by “contemporary”. The Museum of Contemporary Art has ended the era of the Museum of Modern Art.

Contemporary art is different than it was “modern art”. But what else? The world’s periodic celebration that happened in regular intervals has taken the turn of the global era through curators who emerged as the citizens of the whole world in the 1990s. The biennials present the package of international and regional contemporary art in new locations for a cosmopolitan travel audience. This has become the original situation of globalization. The new job profile of the curator, who realizes “projects” instead of the public display of the artworks, is the subject of education in the “Curatorial Studies”, which no longer have any backing in an art history of Western observance, but place cultural and political issues in the foreground in art.

Contemporary art is not only different from modern art but is also in contrast to the “world art”, with which it is sometimes confused: to the world art in the sense of the art of all time and people, the museum in the colonial era came into being. So, there was a feature in the famous book, Atlas of World Art, by John Onians of the School of World Art Studies published in Norwich in 2004. While the term world literature includes contemporary literature in translations, world art is now synonymous with the museum world heritage of art, whose ownership is currently controversial. It is not a term for the global production of contemporary art that has emerged in the last twenty years and is not yet convincingly represented in the permanent collections of art museums, perhaps even in today’s museum can no longer represent meaningfully.

The struggle for recognition as “contemporary”

Emerging-market artists often take a stand against a modern age whose colonial history makes them feel compromised. But in the West, they find a modernity that has long been renamed Postmodernism but is already behind us. You always wanted to stay modern, albeit differently modern, in the sense of a “second” or “third modernity”. But what about all those who were never modern and can only become modern after the heirs of modernity have already passed them? It, therefore, depends on who speaks of modernity and contemporaneity.

In the so-called era of modernity, the artistic avant-garde strove into the future, shaking off the mere contemporaneity and creating a new world. Today, on the other hand, many artists in other parts of the world are only concerned with becoming contemporary or being recognized as contemporary. They no longer want to be stigmatized as laggards and newbies. At the same time, they are under pressure to sacrifice local traditions in their own country, not to the price of the mere coexistent.

Since the turn of 1989, the modern exclusion of non-Western artists has taken on more subtle forms. One can also speak of a pseudo-inclusion, which subjects “the others” to the compulsion to disclose their origin as a context, or label of identity, in order to give them the right to be present in the Western art scene. The market only leaves them the choice between unconditional adaptation (they even speak of “service art”) or the admission that they are visibly and ideologically different. In the struggle for attention and recognition, such artists are only admitted for the price of representing the position of “difference.” Thus, the universal claim of modernity secretly lives on, as if the renunciation of this privilege meant the fall into the modern era.

But is such a claim still to be maintained today? Modernity has long given up the dominant concept of art, which was once its privilege, and played almost all definitions of art. This makes it almost hopeless for others to work on an art concept that has lost its contours. Thus, a new kind of ethnological distribution of space has emerged, in which above all the origin counts. It is important that emerging market artists often leave the country to which their themes refer, and live where they appear exotic and sell their works but can’t explain why, and why “translation” becomes a buzzword has become.

Globalization puts the concept of art in contemporary production to the test. It is and remains western: What then start the other with him? But is it general: Does not he always have to be renegotiated? If he opens up too far, he loses contours. If it is too narrow, then it leads to the exclusion of everything that does not fit. Ergo also proves the concept of art itself as culturally located. Art history and art criticism were known to always language-bound. Art criticism, the old rival of art history, is increasingly leaving the field of the new caste to curators, who also organize the perception of art at biennials and fairs. The curators act like entrepreneurs. But they also jeopardize their interpretive sovereignty when they work with theories, which do not explain, but the market. Even art fairs are curated today instead of just selling art.

Contemporaneity is also a generational problem, in Africa a topic of those born after 1960, and in Asia a theme of that generation that wants to free itself from colonial obedience or official art politics and seeks distance to a domestic art practice. In China, where modernity was shaped by Maoist ideas, a campaign was waged under the banner of the avant-garde against every prescribed concept of art. However, in the market success of Chinese contemporary art, unappreciated or controversial artists of the older generation are now being dragged into the limelight, which is easily incorporated as precursors. This is how one constructs a paradoxical history of contemporary art that considers itself free of history.

Today, people like to talk about “art world”, just like art once did. The term, which dates back to Arthur Danto, encompasses the world of collectors, dealers, and curators who control the art discourse and regulate the market. As a result, many artists set out to disclose the economic and political conditions of global production rather than seeking a global art form. The term global art now serves tangible economic interests. The organizers of the Global Art Forum in Dubai, which in March 2008, the “art promotion in Business Age” made the task, explained without hesitation that “art is business” and therefore must be “developed” economically. Art in the Emirates must be global in nature and act to attract a worldwide audience, even talking about the need to plan “the next ten years of contemporary art in the Middle East” without bothering the art in its recent history Understanding arises from free creativity.

The return of the regions in times of global art

Modern art always had a feature of distinction and distinction. The renunciation of the term “modern” should create space for a no longer modern art. Modern history has separated the world because it was not everyone’s story. Thus, the term “contemporary” serves as an axiom to transcend old boundaries. It is also more neutral than the Western term postwar art, which the market sometimes uses as a placeholder for modern art.

Globalization replaces as concept an International of Art, which stood under the western flag. It offers many artists the chance of integration and participation in what their colleagues in the West have long known. So these are not mere concepts, but contents and hopes that do not mean the same thing everywhere. Under globalization, if one understands a new world map of art, the question immediately arises of how one should draw it and what one should call it. “Third World” sounds antiquated and defamatory today, “Global South” accusing or discouraged. The talk of center and periphery is worn out. Who wants to be periphery? This creates a hectic competition for “mapping”, with the new regions only having to acquire their definition. In the 1990s, the Australians launched the “Pacific-Asian Art” as an art region to ally themselves with the Asians in the face of their problems with a national culture. In Africa, other issues are in the foreground, after Pan-Africanism of the sixties is a thing of the past. Does the Maghreb count towards Africa or the Mediterranean? Is the Iran a part of the Middle East or its own region? The regions are emerging in the art world, but they provide the conditions for a place in the global art world.

The term “global” has existed for just over 25 years, but is now in its 700 titles every year in the title and has 29 million entries on Google. The global world, which sounds like a tautology, which was always there, but it was not present except as a colony. Globalization is a power struggle for markets and consequently an obstacle to a converging world. It has a double root in modernization and colonization, but that is why today’s appeal to live total presence and presence is an attempt to free itself from these roots. Art history has always been narrative, but it needs a narrator who has a point of view. Already in the auction catalogs, terms such as early contemporary appear and late contemporary to periodize an art that contradicts any periodization. You cannot escape history unless you replace it with spatial and geographic labels, but then you end up back in a new ethnology.



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April 2019
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