How to Start Learning Contemporary Art

Where do you start to learn about contemporary art? This video provides concrete ways you can get a better sense of what’s happening in the art world today.

Resources like contemporary artist documentaries, online publications, arts writers, apps, contemporary art museum exhibitions, biennials, art fairs, and more are all terrific ways to get a comprehensive look at the art world today.

Discussion by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artist Lauryn Welch.

43 min. video

Video Walkthrough

  • It’s common for people to have sweeping generalizations about contemporary art.
  • You’ll hear people say “all contemporary art is garbage,” or “my kid could do that.”
  • A lot of the time the reason people don’t enjoy contemporary art is they haven’t had the change to really find art they will connect with.
  • Plan your visits to galleries so that you are looking at shows that will feature artwork you know you’ll engage with well.
  • There are many documentaries produced about contemporary artists such as PBS art21 and M. Abramović: The Artist Is Present which are great for learning about contemporary art.
  • Look at artwork in galleries and museums; galleries have a commercial approach whereas museums tend to be more educational.
  • What counts as “modern art,” and what counts as “contemporary” art?
  • Contemporary art is art being made today, but artists who are currently alive.
  • Modern art is art produced from the 1860s to the 1970s.
  • “Modern” is often substituted for “contemporary,” hence the confusion.
  • Don’t be afraid to voice your own opinions about contemporary art, you are entitled to your opinion!
  • Follow online publications on social media so you stay up to date on exhibitions, articles, and artists you have interest in.
  • Follow arts writers, they are the ones writing the exhibition reviews, writing articles on contemporary art and seeing shows in person.
  • Look up major artist grants and see who the recent winners were.
  • Regional museums are a great place to find contemporary art that isn’t as massive or grand in scale.



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