Terry Smith: What is Contemporary Art?

Czars of the contemporary

Joanna Mendelssohn


What Is Contemporary Art?
by Terry Smith
University of Chicago Press (Footprint Books), $39.95 pb, 329 pp, 9780226764313


At the beginning of his new book, Terry Smith writes that one of the fundamental qualities ‘of the contemporary: [is] its contemporaneousness’. He writes of the contemporary, contemporaries, contemporaneity, contemporaneous, noncontemporaries, cotemporality, cotemporalities, and cotemporal. It is a kind of tautological word game that goes down well in academic conferenceville, which is where some of this book first appeared. The function is to distinguish art of the last two decades, called ‘contemporary’, as distinct from that of earlier periods, labelled ‘postmodern’ and ‘modern’.

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Joanna Mendelssohn

Joanna Mendelssohn is an Associate Professor at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.

Published in February 2011 no. 328

Comments (1)

  • Leave a comment

    My ladies art group can't put a description on what is contemporary and whats abstract. please answer in the most easily understood english. Thanks

    Tuesday, 02 July 2013 09:53 posted by Lyn Hewitt

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