Global Contemporary Art, 1980 CE to Present General Concepts

Topic 1: General Concepts

  • Contemporary artists frequently produce work that challenges or subverts received notions of what "art" is. Works in styles, materials, or genres not previously regarded as art are brought into the privileged space of the museum, or works may be constructed and experienced outside this space. These works may also raise questions about social hierarchies and race, class, or gender. Nonwestern artists, women artists, and artists from minority groups are a growing presence in the international art world, and many create works explicitly informed by their experiences and perspectives.

  • Media employed by contemporary artists include found objects, electronic media, items or images from popular culture, and the materials of graffiti or street art. This use of unconventional materials in unconventional ways often poses unexpected challenges for both creators and curators.

  • Many artworks are constructed as temporary installations, sometimes created for a specific site. The scale of these works and the challenges involved in displaying them ensures that museums and corporate patrons still play a significant role in housing and funding art. Examples include the Unilever series of installations at the Tate Modern Museum in the UK. Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth and Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds were created for this series.

  • At the same time, contemporary artists are very aware of the art of the past and the way it conditions viewers' ideas and expectations. Works such as Yinka Shonibare's The Swing (after Fragonard) may tweak or subvert these expectations. One of the key elements of postmodernism is this knowing relationship to earlier art, as well as to the multiplicity of images generated by popular culture.

Related Links:
Architecture and Installation Art Quiz
Installation Art and Three-Dimensional Art
AP Art History Quizzes
AP Art History Notes