By definition, Contemporary Art is the “art of the present day and relatively recent past and of an innovatory or avant-garde nature.” The art itself leaves a broad variety of artistic creations, there is no definite manifesto to follow, nor any specific technique that entails the participation in the Contemporary art “movement” because there is essentially no movement at all. In fact, it could be better described as a shared necessity to express ideas through artistic products, it is more of a philosophical or social expression, in this sense, a sort of Art of Ideas.
However, it is very likely that we have all heard three infamous sentences (maybe not exactly in this order): 1) “What is that?!” 2) “I could have done that too!” and 3) ““This is just an [insert ordinary object here] and it’s cool only because someone calls it’s ‘““Art’””. This isn’t art.”
If you have ever found yourself saying or thinking any of the three sentences, I hope to make you rethink Contemporary Art.
Firstly, we need to change the way we look at Contemporary art. This has, in fact, thinking as its center rather than making, it is the message or the idea behind it that makes the actual work relevant. Moreover, there is not always a stable and direct interpretation of a contemporary piece, and this is probably what makes it more engaging. Although it is important to say that there is always a message, and paradoxically also a lack of message has a lot to say, sometimes more than a “given” meaning.
Let’s take a simple example: Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept: Expectations (1960). A Contemporary Art Unimpressed Person could say: “It is just a simple cut on a canvas… I could have done that!” And yes, you could have done that, but you are missing a major point: this is not about making the cut itself, but it is about the idea behind it. As the MoMa website states, Fontana broke an unbreakable dimension of the artistic creation. With just a cut he is breaking the “expectations,” as he calls them, of an artist.
And, yes, you could have done that. But did you? Did you even think about doing it? Contemporary Art is not about the skills themselves; it’s about the mind behind the creation.
Many artists challenged the idea of art museum “making” random things “Art”, in the sense that it is the collocation of an object in what we could call the “sanctuary” of Art that makes the piece valuable. And ironically, there has been a case in which visitors actually thought that some random glasses were part of the contemporary art exhibition; but if that counts, I find this even more curious and unique in the phenomenon that is Contemporary Arts.