Czars of the contemporary
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’.