Contemporary Art: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Is a piece of art something that you look at? Can it be something you participate in? These are some of the questions that today's artists are trying to answer. In this lesson, you'll learn how contemporary art differs from the art of the past.

Contemporary Art

Have you ever heard of impressionism or surrealism? These are art movements, or specific styles of art, typically popular during certain periods of time. Artists in a particular movement created paintings and sculptures with similar characteristics, as they believed the role of art was to encourage people to look at the world in a certain way. For example, surrealistic art includes the use of everyday objects or events portrayed in a dreamlike way.

Since the early 1960s, there have been few new art movements that fall into neat categories like impressionism and surrealism. We call today's art contemporary art; the word ''contemporary'' means ''now'' or ''of the present time.'' Contemporary artists are those who are living and creating art now.

Like our society, art has become more diverse. Instead of participating in art movements, contemporary artists create pieces that reflect their own opinions, philosophies and styles. They often try to get people to think about current events or ideas in new ways. Let's look at some examples of contemporary art.

Examples of Contemporary Art

Contemporary art can take many forms. They include installation, site-specific and performance art.

Installation Art

Installation art is created in a public place, such as a park. Installations are often large and include a variety of materials and forms.

Installation art is not meant to be permanent; it is displayed for a limited period of time and then taken away. Two of the most famous installation artists are Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

The Gates is a large example of installation art.

One of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's most famous pieces of installation art was called The Gates, which was created in 2005. They installed 7,503 orange fabric ''gates'' in Central Park in New York City.

Site-Specific Art

If you took a painting from the wall of your house and moved it to another house, the painting itself wouldn't change. That's because a painting exists separately from its surroundings. Site-specific art is sometimes called ''environmental art'' because it is designed for a particular place and uses unique or specific things about the space as part of the art piece.

Restless Rainbow is an example of site-specific art.

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