What is the difference between modern and contemporary?
People will argue that both words mean the same, that they are interchangeable. Literature certainly tells us so. But these words mean completely different things; and they take their roots in art.
The difference between modern and contemporary where it is most relevant, art, comes down to era. Critics agree that modern art used wooden and earthy tones, fixtures and presentation; contemporary art uses state-of-the-art materials, namely glass and metal. There is a pronounced difference in technology in that contemporary is more ‘manufactured’ than modern. A basic example of this would be a wooden chair and a metal frame chair.
The above differentiation is readily observable in physical art and object. But what about paintings and visual art?
In visual art, modern and contemporary are more difficult to differentiate to the masses. Although there is an emotional evocation that we feel to the core of our being, we cannot easily point out the differences. Art critics agree that modern as in Modern Art is a movement that peaked between the 1860s and the 1960s. Beyond the 60s, art was no longer considered modern and had branched out – Contemporary Art being one of them.
The timeframe made it easier for experts to understand and categorize art. Modern Art therefore included movements like Impressionism, Expressionism, Cubism and Surrealism, and Contemporary Art had Minimalism, Conceptualism, Feminism and Post-Modernism.
The trends naturally continued throughout into our time, where the influences of modern and contemporary became popular. Due to it being trendier than the other, Contemporary Art has a more successful commercial success. This is mainly because Contemporary Art is also very replaceable.
Indeed, Modern Art seem to have a more timeless aspect and resonates with our cultural esthetics.
It is accepted that as time progresses, the novelty of Contemporary Art will dissolve into Modern Art, while its actual contemporary nature will include more day-to-day appeals in our ever-evolving world. Modern Art will remain the parent art, and Contemporary Art the ever-growing child.