Contemporary Art Movements
Postmodernist Styles, Schools, Artist-Groups: late 1960s-present.

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For the leading artists
around the world, see:
20th Century Painters
20th Century Sculptors


Examples of Movements

The Physical Impossibility of Death
in the Mind of Someone Living (1991).
By Damien Hirst, one of the most
famous postmodernist artists.

Studies for a Self Portrait (1980).
(Detail) By Francis Bacon, whose
disturbing style of painting combines
surrealist and expressionist imagery.
Although born in the 1900s, Bacon
produced some of the most avant
garde 20th century paintings.

Self Portrait Suspended (2004)
By Young British Artist
Sam Taylor-Wood.
Is Photography art?


Contemporary Art Movements
Chronological list of Postmodernist styles and artforms


Pop Art (1960s onwards)
Word Art (1960s onwards)
Conceptualism (1960s onwards)
Performance (Early 1960s onwards)
Fluxus Movement (1960s)
Installation (1960s onwards)
Video Installations (1960s onwards)
Minimalism (1960s onwards)
Photo-Realist Art (Hyperrealism) (1960s, 1970s)
Earthworks (Land or Environmental Art) (1960s, 1970s)
Contemporary Photography (1960s onwards)
Arte Povera (1966-71)
Supports-Surfaces (1966-72)
Contemporary Realism
Post-Minimalism (1971 onwards)
Feminist Art (1970s)
New Subjectivity (1970s)
London School (1970s)
Graffiti Art (1970s onwards)
Neo-Expressionist Art (1980 onwards)
Transavanguardia (Trans-avant-garde)
Britart: Young British Artists (1980s)
Deconstructivist Design (1985-2010)
Body Art (1990s)
Chinese Cynical Realism (1990s)
Neo-Pop (late 1980s onwards)
Stuckism (1999 onwards)
New Leipzig School (2000 onwards)
Projection Art (21st Century)
Computer Art (21st Century)

Related Articles

• For the top 50 exhibition venues, see: Best Galleries of Contemporary Art.
• For the top 200 artists born after 1945, see: Top Contemporary Artists.



In this article we list the main schools and styles of "Contemporary Art" which emerged from the late-1960s onwards. Because "contemporary art" superceded "modern art", it is also referred to as Postmodernist Art. Please note however, that the transition from modernism to postmodernism was a gradual one, which took place during the decade of the 1960s. Both styles thus co-existed with each other during this time.

In addition, please note that one of the most important differences between modern and postmodern art, concerns the downgrading of the "finished product". The aim of nearly all modern artists, for instance, was to create an enduring and unique work of art like a painting, sculpture, drawing, or other type of object. By contrast, postmodernist artists have less interest in this kind of product and more interest in the ideas behind it. This helps to explain the growth of new types of art - such as installation art (including sound and video installations), conceptualism (a wide category of 'ideas art'), happenings (type of performance art), video installations, projection mapping, and outdoor earthworks (environmental constructions) - in which either there is no finished product to speak of, or else it is transient and recorded only as an 'event'. Revealingly, over the past 20 years, the Turner Prize for Contemporary Art has been won by 2 painters, 0 sculptors, and 10 installation artists.




Pop Art (1960s onwards)

Pop Art was both modernist and contemporary. It started out by depicting a more up-to-date reality, using images of film-stars and other celebrities, as well as mass-made consumer goods. But this was rapidly eclipsed by an increasing post-modern focus on impact and style. See for instance our short guide to Andy Warhol's Pop Art of the sixties.

Word Art/Word Painting (1960s onwards)

Word Art was a brand new form of painting or sculpture which used text-based imagery. It was associated with artists like Robert Indiana (b.1928), Jasper Johns (b.1930), On Kawara (1932-2014), Barbara Kruger (b.1945) and Christopher Wool (b.1955).

Conceptualism (1960s onwards)

Conceptual art is a postmodernist art movement founded on the principle that art is a 'concept' rather than a material object. That is to say, the 'idea' which a work represents is considered its essential component, and the "finished product", if it exists at all, is regarded essentially as a form of documentation rather than as an artifact. The origins of Conceptualism go back to Dada and the early 20th century avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp, but it wasn't until the 1960s that it became a recognizable movement and acquired a name. Conceptual art has the ability to deliver ideas quite powerfully, hence it has served as a popular vehicle for socio-political comment. In addition, by downplaying the need for any painterly or sculptural skills - indeed, for any craftsmanship at all - it retains a subversive edge by challenging the entire tradition of a work of art as a unique and valuable object. Some experts point to the fact that the postmodern era demands more than the passive experience of "viewing" a work of art, and that Conceptualism provides a more interactive experience. Whether this added entertainment value helps an "idea" to qualify as a work of art, is rather doubtful. For works by one of Europe's first conceptual artists, please see also: Yves Klein's Postmodernist art (1956-62).

An illustration of this issue is the large collection of shoes in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, which belonged to Nazi concentration camp victims. It has been suggested that this has the characteristics of a Conceptual artwork, because walking past the huge pile of shoes helps us to comprehend the terrifying reality of the gas chambers. Indeed it does, but frankly it doesn't turn the shoes into a work of art, or indeed any type of artistic statement. (Compare Holocaust art 1933-45.) It is a political or historical statement. Thus the difficulty for Conceptualism is to show how it qualifies as art, as opposed to entertainment, theatre, or political commentary.

Important exponents of Conceptualism include Sol LeWitt, Joseph Beuys, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Eva Hesse, Jenny Holzer, Joseph Kosuth, Barbara Kruger, Jean Tinguely and Lawrence Weiner. Other artists associated with the movement include Mel Bochner, Hanne Darboven, Agnes Denes, Jan Dibbets, Hans Haacke, On Kawara and Les Levine.

Performance (1960s onwards)

Emerging in America and Europe in the early 1960s, Performance art is an experimental art form inspired by Conceptual art, as well as Dada, Futurism, the Bauhaus and (in America) the Black Mountain College. Performance is generally supposed to be characterized by its "live" nature - the fact that the artist communicates directly with the audience - and its impact, whether amusing or shocking, must be memorable. A good example is the series of self-destructive machines - probably the most famous examples of kinetic art - created by the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely (1925-91). Even so, the exact difference between innovative theatre and Performance art is hard to detect. Moreover its insistence on being labelled "art" - traditionally a bourgeois event - sits awkwardly alongside its anti-establishment ethic.

Performance now includes events and "happenings" by visual artists, poets, musicians, film makers, video artists and so on. The late-1960s and 1970s also witnessed the appearance of "Body Art", a type of Performance in which the artist's own flesh becomes the canvas and subsequently "performs" in a suitably shocking, newsworthy manner (for more see below). During the 1980s, Performance art increasingly relied on technology (video, computers) to deliver its "artistic" message. Contemporary artists associated with this genre include the pioneer Allan Kaprow (1927-2006), Yves Klein (1928-62), Gilbert & George (b.1943, 1942), and the extraordinary Joseph Beuys (1921-86), who created the innovative performance How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (1965). Another innovative artist is the Korean-American Nam June Paik (1932-2006), who began in performance art before working with televisions and video, and thereafter installations.

Fluxus Movement (1960s)

Fluxus was an avant-garde group of artists (its name means "flowing" in Latin) led by the Lithuanian-born art theorist George Maciunas (1931-78), which first appeared in Germany before spreading to other European capitals and then New York City, which became the centre of its activities. Its stated aims - a confusing mixture of "revolutionary" and "anti-art" art forms - carried on the traditions of Dada, focusing on Happenings (known as Aktions in Germany), and various types of street art. Leading members included the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys, the Japanese-born conceptualist Yoko Ono, and the German performance and video artist Wolf Vostell (b.1932). Maciunas' ultimate goal was to get rid of all fine art on the basis that it was a waste of resources and little more than a bourgeois indulgence. Fluxus artists collaborated to blend different media (visual, literary, musical) into a number of "events", involving installations, happenings, photography and film. Fluxus festivals of contemporary art were held throughout the 60s in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, London, Paris and New York. See also Viennese Actionism, under Body Art, below.

Installation (1960s onwards)

Installation art is a new art form which came to attention in the USA during the 1960s, although the idea dates back to the Surrealist exhibitions created by Marcel Duchamp and others, when works of art were arranged to form a complex and compelling environment. The Russian painter and designer El Lissitzky was another pioneer whose 1923 "Proun Room" at the Berlin Railway Station was an early type of Installation, as were the room-filled Merzbilder constructions of Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948). Other more recent examples include Lucio Fontana's 1950s "Spatial Environments", and Yves Klein's 1958 show "Le Vide" (The Void), which was an empty gallery room. Also, in the 1960s the Groupe Recherche d'Art Visuel created early installations in the form of kinetic light environments. An installation typically occupies an entire space, like a room or larger area, and consists of several different components. The American sculptor Ed Kienholz used cars and institutional furniture in the 1960s, to present an installation commenting on death and social issues. His fellow sculptor George Segal, used lifesize plaster figures portrayed in everyday settings (like waiting for a subway train) to comment on the mundane. Other recent installation artists have included Rebecca Horn, Bruce Nauman, Christian Boltanski, Richard Wilson and Tracey Emin. See also LED installation art - a form of kinetic art - by Tatsuo Miyajima (b.1957).

Video Installations (1960s onwards)

In the 1960s, artists began to exploit the medium of video in an attempt to redefine art. A number of video artists, for instance, have challenged the preconceived idea of art as high-brow, high priced, and only appreciable by society's elite. Others have used video to demolish the idea of art being a commodity - a unique "finished product" - by making their video art an "experience" (rather than something to own), or a tool for change, a medium for ideas. Video also allows the artist to reveal the actual process of creating art. Typically, video installations combine video with a sound track and/or music, and may involve other interactive devices, making full use of the surrounding environment to stimulate the audience. Pioneers of video installation include: Nam June Paik (1932-2006) whose 1960s arrangements typically involved multiple television monitors in sculptural arrangements; as well as Andy Warhol (1928-87), Peter Campus (b.1937), Wolf Vostell (b.1932), Bill Viola (b.1951), Gary Hill and Tony Oursler. In Britain, video artists include: Laure Prouvost, Elizabeth Price, Jeremy Deller, Steve McQueen, Gillian Wearing, Douglas Gordon, Sam Taylor-Wood, David Hall and Tony Sinden, among many others.

Minimalism (1960s onwards)

Emerging in America in the second half of the 60s, Minimalism/Minimal Art is a refined form of abstract art which succeeded Post Painterly Abstraction (a type of late Abstract Expressionism) to become an influential style around the world in sculpture, painting and architecture. In the area of fine art, Minimalism is characterized by extreme simplicity of form and a deliberate lack of expressive content. Objects are presented in their elemental, geometric form, wholly devoid of emotion. Minimalist works (of sculpture and painting) are often composed of bare uniform elements making up some type of a grid or pattern. Regularity is almost essential to minimize any glint of expressionism.

Minimalism was the final stage in the logical development of Abstract Expressionism, whose style went from gestural (action-painting) to plane-work (colour field painting) to sharply defined geometrical planes and patterns (hard edge painting) to Minimal Art. Along the way it gradually jettisoned all feeling and emotion, until it arrived at an austere and impersonal form of so-called artistic purity or truth. All that remains is the intellectual idea of the piece: there's no emotion. This is why Minimalism is close to Conceptualism - both are concerned with the basic idea or concept of the work created.

Important Minimalist sculptors include Carl Andre (b.1935), Don Judd (1928-94), Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), Robert Morris (b.1931), Richard Serra (b.1939) and Tony Smith (1912-80). Minimalist painters include Agnes Martin (1912-2004), Ad Reinhardt (1913-67), Ellsworth Kelly (b.1923), Kenneth Noland (b.1924), Robert Ryman (b.1930) and Frank Stella (b.1936).

Photo-Realist Art (Hyperrealism) (1960s, 1970s)

Photorealism was a style of painting that appeared in the late 1960s, in which subjects (people or urban scenes) are painted in a highly detailed manner, resembling photographs. Most practitioners work directly from photographs or digital computer imagery, and the subject matter is quite banal and of no special interest. Instead the real focus is on the precision and detail achieved by the artist, and its impact on the viewer. Photographic realism was largely inspired by Pop-Art - banal subject-matter was common to both, and certain artists (eg. Malcolm Morley and Mel Ramos) used both styles. however Photo-Realism lacks Pop-Art's whimsical or ironic humour, and can even be faintly disturbing. What's more, paradoxically, its microscopic, indiscriminate detail can actually create a slightly "unreal" effect. Leading members of the Super-Realist movement include Richard Estes - who specializes in street scenes containing complex glass-reflections - and Chuck Close, who excels at monumental pictures of expressionless faces. Other Hyper-Realist painters include Robert Bechtle, Audrey Flack, Ralph Goings and John Doherty. Hyperrealist sculptors include Duane Hanson (1925-96), John de Andrea (b.1941), Carole Feuerman (b.1945), Ron Mueck and Robert Gober.

Earthworks (Land or Environmental Art) (1960s, 1970s)

Land art, which emerged largely in the United States during the 1960s, uses or interacts with the landscape in order to create artistic shapes or "events." Referred to by a variety of names, it typically re-fashions natural forms or enhances them with man-made materials. Pioneers of this artform include Robert Smithson, Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy, as well as the interventionists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Note that Land art is quite different from man-made monuments such as Stonehenge. The latter was errected for its ceremonial or religious significance and is not considered to be an element of the land. Even the celebrated Presidential portraits of Mount Rushmore, while clearly works of art, do not qualify as Land art since they do not celebrate the land but the images made from it. For similar styles, please see Art Movements, Periods, Schools (from about 100 BCE).

Contemporary Photography (1960s onwards)

Up until the early 1960s, photography was driven by pictorialism and portrait photography. Since then, documentary photography, increasingly complex fashion photography and the growing genre of street photography have been the main driving forces. Contemporary portraits of celebrities are also popular. Contemporary photographers involved in photojournalism include Don McCullin (b.1935) and Steve McCurry (b.1950); while the best fashion photographers include Helmut Newton (1920-2004), David Bailey (b.1938), Nick Knight (b.1958) and David LaChapelle (b.1963). Street photography is illustrated by Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) and Nan Goldin (b.1953), while postmodernist portraiture is exemplified by Diane Arbus (1923-71) and Annie Leibovitz (b.1949).

Arte Povera (1966-71)

Given the name "poor art" by the Italian critic Germano Celant (who also wrote an influential book entitled "Arte Povera: Conceptual, Actual or Impossible Art"), Arte Povera was an anti-commercial style of art that was concerned mainly with the physical qualities of the materials used. The latter typically consists of ordinary or otherwise worthless things, such as scraps of newspapers, old clothes, earth, metal fragments and so on, although in practice quite elaborate and expensive materials are sometimes used (!). Arte Povera was initiated by a group of avant-garde artists in Italy, whose members included: Piero Manzoni (1933-63), Mario Merz (1925-2003), Michelangelo Pistoletto (b.1933), Pino Pascali (1935-68), Jannis Kounellis (b.1936), Luciano Fabro (b.1936), Gilberto Zorio (b.1944) and Giuseppe Penone (b.1947). Another important figure was the Turin art dealer and promoter Enzo Sperone.


Supports-Surfaces (c.1966-72)

Supports-Surfaces was a conceptualist group of young left-wing French artists who exhibited together from about 1966 to 1972. (The name was chosen rather belatedly for their show "Animation, Recherche, Controntation" at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris). Members of the group included Andre-Pierre Aarnal, Vincent Bioules, Louis Cane, Marc Devade, Daniel Dezeuze, Noel Dolla, Toni Grand, Bernard Pages, Jean-Pierre Pincemin, Patrick Saytour, Andre Valensi, and Claude Viallat. The group aimed to divest art of its symbolic and romantic qualities - to liberate art from the tyranny of taste, the banality of Expressionism, the sentimentality of late Surrealism and the purity of Art Concrete, as they put it - and so they deconstructed the act of painting to its essential physical properties - the canvas and stretchers (frames). Noted for their touring outdoor exhibitions, the group employed a variety of unusual materials in their works, such as stones, waxed fabric, carboard and rope, and the works themselves were often folded, crushed, burned or dyed and exhibited on the floor or hung without a frame. They issued numerous explanatory treatises and posters in an attempt to explain their actions, and published a regular journal "Peinture/Cahiers Theoretiques." In general their works can be interpreted as a variant of Conceptualism.

Contemporary Realism

A term used in its narrow sense to denote an American style of painting which emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the works of a variety of artists, such as Philip Pearlstein, Neil Wellilver and William Bailey. It is characterized by figurative works executed in a raw objective style, without the distortions of Cubist or Expressionist interpretation. Contemporary Realists deliberately rejected abstract art, choosing instead to depict down-to-earth subjects in a straightforward naturalistic manner.

In its wider sense, the term Contemporary Realism encompasses all post-1970 painters and sculptors who focus on representational art, where the object is to portray the "real" rather than the ideal. Thus genre paintings or figurative works whose subjects are depicted (eg) in a romantic or nostalgic light are excluded from this genre. There is no general school of Contemporary Realism as such, and many artists - including abstractionists - have experimented with this more traditional approach. Perhaps the most interesting exponent of Contemporary Realism is the figurative master Lucian Freud (1922-2011), whose powerful studies of the human body manage to convey both grittiness and love. For earlier styles of realist painting, see Modern Art Movements (1870-1970).

Post-Minimalism (1971 onwards)

A buzzword first used by the American art critic Robert Pincus-Witten when he described works by Eva Hesse as "Post-Minimalism" in Artforum in 1971. Hesse together with other artists were reacting against the rigid and impersonal formalism of Minimal art by focusing on the physical and creative processes involved. This new style, known as "Process Art", was highy transient and utilized unstable materials which condensed, evaporated or deteriorated without the artist having any control. It became a trend as a result of two shows in 1969: "When Attitudes Become Form" at the Berne Kunsthalle and "Procedures/ Materials" at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Prominent Post-Minimalist artists, as well as Hesse, included the American sculptor Richard Serra and the German-born Conceptual artist Hans Haake.

In a broader sense, however, Post-Minimalism (like Post-Impressionism) encompasses a number of differing styles, as well as types of painting, sculpture and other contemporary artforms, which succeeded Minimalism in the late-1960s and 1970s, and which use it as an aesthetic or conceptual reference point from which to develop. In very simple terms, as Minimalist artists began to take more of a conceptual approach to their art and focused on conveying a single truth, they gradually crossed over into Post-Minimalism. Indeed many Conceptual artists are often spoken of as Post-Minimalists. If this sounds too complicated, don't worry: we are now in serious theoretical territory, involving epistemological and ontological issues which require a Masters Degree to comprehend. Suffice it to say that Post-Minimalism (not unlike Post-Modernism) shifts the focus of art from form to image. How something is done and communicated becomes as important as what is created.

Feminist Art (mid-to-late 1960s onwards)

Feminist Art - art made by women about women's issues - emerged towards the end of the 1960s and explored what it was to be a woman AND an artist in a male dominated world. It first appeared in America and Britain, where various feminist art groups were inspired by the women's liberation movement, before spreading across Europe. In comparison with the elitist formal and impersonal subject matter pursued by male avant-garde artists, work by women artists offered emotion, and real-life experience. British and US feminist artists employed inherently female symbolic forms, raising the status of so-called "female" materials and practices. They addressed fundamental gender-based issues, such as giving birth, motherhood, and forced seduction, as well as wider concerns such as racism and working conditions. A specific style of Female art, the Pattern and Decoration movement, sprang up in California during the 1970s, being composed largely of women artists. They reacted against the severe austerity of Minimalizm by juxtaposing identical or similiar patterns, and producing intense fusions of colour and texture using traditional craft techniques, like weaving, paper cut-outs and patchwork. Their beautiful use of colour was inspired by the French Fauves movement of 1900s Paris, while their geometrical and floral motifs were drawn from Islamic, Far Eastern, Celtic and Persian Art. Prominent feminist artists include the Americans Nancy Spero (1926-2009), Eleanor Antin (b.1935), Joan Jonas (b.1936), Judy Chicago (b.1939). Mary Kelly (b.1941), Barbara Kruger (b.1945) and Miriam Schapiro (1923-2015), the Swedish artist Monica Sjoo, the English artist Margaret Harrison (b.1940), to name but a handful. In the plastic arts, one of the great feminist sculptors was Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010).


New Subjectivity (1970s)

"Nouvelle Subjectivité" was the title given by the French curator and art historian Jean Clair, to an international exhibition in 1976 at the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The show featured works by American, British and European modern artists who rejected the dominant abstraction and conceptualism in modern art in favour of a return to depicting the reality of things, albeit in a modern manner. In their paintings, they were concerned with careful observation of the real world.

Exponents of New Subjectivity employed every format of canvas from monumental to small-scale, and worked in acrylics, oils, and watercolours, as well as coloured pencils and pastels. In their return to figuration and their representation of nature, they depicted views of gardens, fields, swimming pools, portraits and still lifes. Typically, they were skilled draughtsmen and academically trained painters, and constructed their paintings according to the traditional Renaissance rules of linear and arial perspective. Prominent artists associated with New Subjectivity included the English artist David Hockney, the American artist (active in England) R B Kitaj, the Swiss artist Samuel Buri, and the French artists Olivier O Olivier, Christian Zeimert, Michel Parre and Sam Szafran.

London School

A term used by the American painter RB Kitaj in the catalogue of an exhibition he staged, in 1976 at the Hayward Gallery, London, when Minimalism and Conceptualism were high fashion. The show, entitled "Human Clay", focused exclusively on figurative works of drawing and painting, and in the brochure RB Kitaj coined the phrase "School of London" to refer to the individual artists whose works were being shown. Since then, the term London School has been used to refer to the group of artists associated with the city at that time, who continued to practise forms of figurative work, in the face of the avant-garde establishment. The principal artists involved in this London School, included Michael Andrews, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, David Hockney (though actually living in America), Howard Hodgkin, Frank Auerbach, and Leon Kossoff. As Minimal and Conceptual art began to fade in the late 1970s, a new generation of figurative painters and sculptors began to appear, who took a renewed interest in the work of the school. (For a brief guide to modern painters in Britain, see: Contemporary British Painting.)

Graffiti Art (1970s onwards)

Also known as "Street Art", "Spraycan Art" and "Aerosol Art", Graffiti art is a style of painting associated with hip-hop, a cultural movement which sprang up in various American cities, especially on New York subway trains, during the 1970s and 1980s. B-boys, the first generation of hip-hop voiced the frustrations of urban minorities in their attempt to create their own form of art, a non-commercial one that did not seek to please the general public. They employed stencils, marker pens, and aerosol spray cans, and wrote with industrial spray paint and acrylic on all types of support: stone, plaster, metal, wood, and plastic. Their "canvases" were subway trains, walls in urban areas and industrial wastelands, subways, roofs and billboards. During the 1970s, Graffiti Art spread to Europe and Japan and eventually crossed over from the street into the gallery. (See biography of Banksy, Britain's most famous graffiti stencil artist.) The heart of the movement however, was New York City.

In New York an early pioneer, known by his tag TAKI 183, was a youth from Washington Heights. The first women graffiti artists were Barbara 62 and Eva 62. From 1971, artists began adopting signature calligraphic styles to distinguish their work, and also began breaking into subway train depots in order to apply their tag on the sides of trains - a process called "bombing" - with maximum effect. The train thus became their "gallery" as it showed their work off across the city. The size and scale of tags also increased leading in 1972 to the production of so-called "masterpieces" or "pieces" by a graffiti sprayer known as Super Kool 223. A further development involved the inclusion of designs like polka dots, checkers and crosshatches, and soon "Top-to-bottoms" - works spanning the entire height of a subway car - began to appear, as well as scenery and cartoon characters. Gradually the mainstream art world started to take notice. The United Graffiti Artists (UGA), a group founded in 1972 by Hugo Martinez, expanded its membership to include many of the leading graffiti artists, with a view to showing works in official venues, like the Razor Gallery. By the mid-1970s most of the creative standards in graffiti writing had already been established, and the genre began to stagnate. Also the NYC Metro Transit Authority began a twofold campaign to secure depots and erase graffiti on a continuing basis. As a result, taggers forsook the subway and took to the streets, where their static art neccessarily received far less exposure. During the late-1980s and 1990s, more artists began showing their works in galleries and renting art studios, a practice which had already started a number of years earlier with taggers like Jean-Michel Basquiat - now one of the world's top contemporary artists - who dropped his signature SAMO (Same Old Shit), in favour of mainstream opportunities. Other famous graffiti artists include Keith Haring (1958-90), Banksy (b.1973-4) and David Wojnarowicz (1954-92). Graffiti is a form of the larger "Street Art" movement, a style of outsider art created outside of the framework of traditional art venues. It embraces stencil graffiti, poster or sticker art, pop up art and street installations, including the latest video projections, yarn bombings and Lock-On sculptures. Street Art is sometimes referred to as "urban art", "guerrilla art", "post-graffiti" or "neo-graffiti".

For a list of the top 30 postmodernist art exhibitions, biennials and fairs, please see: Best Contemporary Art Festivals.

Neo-Expressionism (Late 1970s onwards)

One of several styles of Postmodernism, Neo-Expressionism is a broad painting movement that appeared around 1980, in response to the stagnation of Minimalism and Conceptual art, whose intellectualism and self-style "purity" had dominated the 1970s but was now beginning to get on many artists' nerves. Neo-Expressionists championed the highly unfashionable practice of fine art painting (condemned as "dead" by postmodernists) and supported everything that the Modernists had tried to discredit: figuration, emotion, symbolism, and narrative. They use sensuous colours, and incorporated themes associated with numerous historical styles and movements, such as the Renaissance, Mannerism, Cubism, Fauvism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop-Art. Not surprisingly, in Germany, Neo-Expressionism was strongly influenced by earlier German Expressionist groups like Der Blaue Reiter and Die Brucke.

The movement embraced new painting in Germany by artists like Georg Baselitz (b.1938), Jorg Immendorf, Anselm Kiefer, AR Penk, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, as well as works by the "Ugly Realists" such as Markus Lupertz. It also covered the Neue Wilden (New Wild Ones, a reference to the 1900s style of Fauvism or "wild beasts") whose members included Rainer Fetting. Following international shows like "A New Spirit in Painting" (London Royal Academy, 1981) and "Zeitgeist" (Berlin, 1982), the term Neo-Expressionism began to be applied to other groups, like Figuration Libre in France, Transavanguardia in Italy, the "New Image Painters" and the so-called "Bad Painters." In America, the style, while popular, has not produced the same calibre of work, with the exception of artists like Philip Guston (1913-80), Julian Schnabel, David Salle and others. In Britain, the style is exemplified by the Rubenesque nudes of Jenny Saville, that challenge notions of conventionality in the size and shape of the human body. The rise of the movement led to the rehabilitation of several artists working in a similar vein. These included Americans Louise Bourgeois, Leon Golub, and Cy Twombly; and the British artist Lucian Freud, all of whose works have been labelled Neo-Expressionist. The label has also been applied to sculpture. Works by sculptors like the American Charles Simonds, the British artists Anish Kapoor and Rachel Whiteread, the Czech Magdalena Jetelova, the German Isa Genzken and Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowitz, all contain Expressionist features. In architecture, the term expressionist has been applied to buildings such as the Sydney Opera House and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. For more information, please see: History of Expressionist Painting (1880-1930) and the Expressionist Movement (1880s onwards).

Transavanguardia (Trans-avant-garde) (1979 onwards)

The Italian art critic Achille Bonito Oliva used the term "Transavanguardia" (beyond the avant-garde) in Flash Art magazine in October 1979, when referring to international Neo-Expressionism. But since then it has been used only to describe the work of Italian artists working in the style during the 1980s and 1990s. They include Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, and Mimmo Paladino. Transavantgarde artists employed a free, figurative style of painting, with nostalgic references to the Renaissance and its iconography. They painted large-scale works in oil, including realistic and imaginary portraits, religious and allegorical history paintings, and were inspired also by Symbolism as well as the colour palette of Fauvism. Chia incorporated Italian Mannerism, Cubism, Futurism and Fauvism in his narrative religious works; Paladino composed large mythological pictures with both geometric and figurative motifs; Cucchi produced romantic scenes of giants and mountains, inspired by Surrealism, and incorporated the use of extra items, made from metal or clay, in his painted works; Clemente was noted for his self-portraiture and intimate figurative works. Their inclusion in major shows at the Kuntshalle in Basel and the Venice Biennale in 1980, and the London Royal Academy in 1981, led to solo exhibitions in both Europe and America as well as a rapid rise in the significance of the school.


Britart: Young British Artists (1980s)

The Young British Artists (YBAs) first appeared on the scene in the 1980s, and were officially recognized in 1997 in the "Sensation" exhibition. Owing much to early 20th century styles such as Dada and Surrealism, their work is often called "Britart." The group consisted of a number of painters, sculptors, conceptual and installation artists working in the United Kingdom, many of whom attended Goldsmiths College in London. Its members gained considerable media coverage for their shocking artworks and dominated British art during the 1990s. Famous members include Damien Hirst (noted for The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a dead Tiger shark pickled in formaldehyde, and lately for his diamond studded skull For the Love of God), and Tracey Emin (noted for My Bed, a dishevelled double bed featuring some highly personal detritus).

Arguably, many YBAs would never have succeeded but for the patronage and promotion of their works by contemporary art collector Charles Saatchi, who first met Damien Hirst at the Goldsmiths College 1988 student exhibition "Freeze", which showcased 16 YBAs. Saatchi purchased many of the works on show. Two years later Hirst curated two more influential YBA shows, "Modern Medicine" and "Gambler". Saatchi attended both exhibitions and bought more works. By 1992, Saatchi was not only Hirst's principal patron, he was also the biggest sponsor for other Young British Artists - a second group of whom had appeared, via shows like "New Contemporaries," "New British Summertime," and "Minky Manky", and included artists such as Tracey Emin. Meantime, the economic recession in Britain worsened, triggering the collapse of the contemporary art market in London. In response, Saatchi hosted a series of exhibitions at his Saatchi Gallery, promoting the name "Young British Art" from which the movement retrospectively acquired its identity. The first one presented the work of Sarah Lucas, Mark Wallinger, Rachel Whiteread and of course Damien Hirst, whose dead shark rapidly became the iconic symbol of Britart around the world.

In 1993, the YBA Rachel Whiteread won the Turner Prize, followed in 1995 by Damien Hirst. In 1997, Young British Artists went mainstream when the London Royal Academy, in conjunction with Saatchi, hosted "Sensation", a definitive exhibition of YBA art, amid no little controversy. It then travelled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York. In 1999, Tracey Emin's work "My Bed" was nominated for the Turner Prize, while in 2000, YBA exhibits were included in the new Tate Modern, all of which confirmed the established reputation of the group.

See also: Contemporary Irish Artists and 20th Century Irish Painters.

Some prominent YBAs include: James Rielly (portraits), Keith Coventry (abstract painter), Simon Callery (urban views), Martin Maloney (Expressionist painter), Gary Hume (Minimalist), Richard Patterson (super-abstract), Fiona Rae (abstract, Pop-art), Marcus Harvey (expressionist figurative works), Ian Davenport (geometric abstraction), Glenn Brown (sculptor and expressionist painting), and Jenny Saville (expressionist-style female bodies), several of whom are Turner Prize Winners (1984-2014).

Deconstructivist Design (1985-2010)

Deconstructivism is an "anti-geometric" form of 20th century architecture that first appeared in the late 1980s, in California and Europe. Greatly facilitated by computer software developed by the aerospace industry, deconstructivist architecture espouses a non-rectilinear approach to design which often distorts the exterior of a structure. Deconstructivism was pioneered by the Canadian-American Frank O. Gehry (b.1929), one of the most innovative American architects of the postmodern era. Other famous practitioners have included Peter Eisenman, the firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind. The best-known deconstructivist buildings include: the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao), Nationale Nederlanden Building (Prague), and The Experience Music Project (Seattle), all designed by Frank Gehry; UFA-Palast (Dresden), designed by Coop Himmelb(l)au; and Seattle Library designed by Rem Koolhaas. See also: Design Art c.1850-1970.

Body Art (1990s)

During the late-1960s a type of performance art appeared, called Body art, in which the artist's own body became the "canvas", so to speak, for a passive work of art, or which then "performs" in a shocking way. The most typical forms of passive body art are body painting, tattoos, nail art, piercings, face painting, brandings or implants. The more active performance-related types of body art, in which artists abuse their own body as a way of conveying their particular "artistic message", can include mutilation, drug-taking, extreme physical activity, or extreme pain endurance. One controversial performance group was the Vienna Action Group, founded in 1965 by Gunter Brus, Otto Muhl, Herman Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwartzkogler. Other famous body artists include Michel Journiac (1935-1995), Ketty La Rocca (1938-76), Vito Acconci (b.1940), Ulay (Frank Uwe Laysiepen) (b.1943) and the extraordinary Serbian artist Marina Abramovic (b.1946).

A leading body painter is the New Zealander Joanne Gair (b.1958). Celebrated for her trompe-l'oeil body painting and make-up artistry, she is best known for one of her artistic female nudes, entitled "Demi Moore's Birthday Suit" - which appeared on the front cover of Vanity Fair magazine in August 1992. It was photographed by the contemporary photographer Annie Leibovitz (b.1949).

Chinese Cynical Realism (1990s)

Cynical Realism - a term first coined by the highly influential art critic and curator Li Xianting (b.1949) as a deliberate play on the officially sanctioned style of Socialist Realism - describes a style of painting adopted by a number of Beijing artists in the post-1989 gloom following the suppression of the Tiananmen Square demonstration. Its ironic, sometimes highly satirical criticism of contemporary society in China, greatly impressed Western art collectors, although it was and is viewed with ambivalence by Chinese art critics, who feel uncomfortable with its fame in the West. Artists associated with Cynical Realism include: Yue Minjun (b.1962), Fang Lijun (b.1963) and Zhang Xiaogang (b.1958), all of whom have sold paintings for more than $1 million. The movement is related to "Political Pop" - a late-1980s form of Chinese Pop art.

Neo-Pop Art (late 1980s onwards)

The terms "Neo-Pop" or "Post-Pop" denote the revival of American interest in the themes and methods of the 1950s and 1960s Pop-Art movement. In particular, it refers to the work of artists like Ashley Bickerton, Jeff Koons, Alan McCollum, and Haim Steinbach. Using recognizable objects, images of celebrities (eg. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears) as well as icons and symbols from popular culture of the 1980s and 1990s, this updated form of Pop-Art also drew inspiration from Dada (in their use of readymades and found objects), as well as modern Conceptual art. Classic examples of Neo-Pop art are "Rat-King" (1993) a sculpture by Katharina Fritsch, and Jeff Koons 1988 sculpture "Michael Jackson and Bubbles". Like its parent style, Neo-Pop poked fun at celebrity stars, and openly questioned some of society's most precious assumptions. Koons himself achieved considerable notoriety for his elevation of kitsch into high art. His "Balloon Dog" (1994-2000) is a shiny red steel sculpture (10 feet high) whose detailed monumental form contrasts absurdly with the trivial nature of its subject. Other famous Neo-Pop artists included Americans Jenny Holzer, Cady Noland and Daniel Edwards; Young British Artists Damien Hirst, Gary Hume and Gavin Turk, as well as Michael Craig-Martin, Julian Opie and Lisa Milroy; Russians Vitali Komar and Alexander Melamid; and Belgian artist Leo Coper.

NOTE: One of the confusing things about Neo-Pop is the fact that several creators of the original 1960s and 70s Pop-art were still creating interesting works in the 1990s. The best example is the sculptor Claes Oldenburg (b.1929) whose giant-sized Pop sculptures include Free Stamp (1985-91, Willard Park, Cleveland) and Apple Core (1992, Israel Museum, Jerusalem).

Stuckism (1999 onwards)

A controversial British art group, co-founded in 1999 by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish along with eleven other artists. The name stems from an insult to Childish delivered by British artist Tracey Emin, who advised him that his art was 'Stuck'. Rejecting the sterile nature of Conceptual art, as well as Performance and Installation by YBAs like Emin, which they claim is essentially devoid of artistic value, Stuckist artists favour a return to more painterly qualities as exemplified by figurative painting and other representational art. The group held numerous exhibitions in Britain during the early 2000s, including "The First Art Show of the New Millennium" (Jan 1st 2000), and "The Resignation of Sir Nicholas Serota" (March 2000), along with several annual shows entitled "The Real Turner Prize Show", as well as a number of other events. The group also in Paris, Hamburg, Cologne, Leipzig, New Jersey, New Haven USA and Melbourne Australia. Stuckism was also featured in two recent books: "Styles, Schools and Movements: an Encyclopaedic Guide to Modern Art," by Amy Dempsey; and "The Tastemakers: UK Art Now," by Rosie Millard. A Stuckist gallery was also opened in central London. Members of the Stuckist group included, among others, Charles Thomson, Billy Childish, Bill Lewis, Philip Absolon, Sanchia Lewis, Sheila Clark, Ella Guru, and Joe Machine.

New Leipzig School (c.2000 onwards)

Coming to public attention in the first years of the new Millenium, the New Leipzig School (in German, "Neue Leipziger Schule"), also called "Young German Artists" (YGAs), is a loose movement of painters and sculptors who received their training at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (Academy of Visual Arts) in Leipzig, East Germany, where it was largely isolated from modern art trends in the West. Teaching methods were uniformly traditional, focusing on the fundamentals of traditional fine art, with heavy emphasis on draftsmanship, figure drawing, life drawing, the use of grids, colour theory, and the laws of perspective. After re-unification in 1989, the school began to teach students from all across Germany and its graduates looked for opportunities to sell their works in the West. The first successful artist to emerge was Neo Rauch who was offered a solo show at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York in 2000. His success has now opened the gates for other equally talented Leipzig artists, whose works are being showcased in Europe and the United States. Their style is typically figurative with a strong emphasis on narrative, and is characterized by muted colours.

Classical Realism and the Postmodern Atelier Movement
The New Leipzig School is one of several contemporary centres of traditional craftsmanship. In the United States, traditional fine art painting was revitalized in the 1980s by "Classical Realism", a contemporary movement founded by Richard Lack (1928–2009), a former pupil of Boston artist R. H. Ives Gammell (1893–1981) in the early 1950s. In 1967, he set up Atelier Lack, a training workshop modelled on the ateliers of 19th-century Paris.

Projection Art (21st Century)

Projection art - also known as Projection mapping, or video mapping, or spatial augmented reality - is the height of postmodernist artistry. Using computerized projection technology it needs only a surface (like a building, church facade, tree, and so on) upon which to project the finished product. Any imagery can be mapped onto the receiving surface and the effects can be spectacular: it can literally transform an outside or indoor space, while at the same time telling a story and creating an optical feast. Famous projection artists include Paolo Buroni, Clement Briend, Ross Ashton, Jennifer Steinkamp, Andy McKeown and Felice Varini, to name but a few.

Computer Art (21st Century)

Dating back to the Henry Drawing Machine, designed by Desmond Paul Henry in 1960, the term "Computer art" denotes any art in which computers play a significant role. This broad definition also embraces more conventional art forms that utilize computers, such as: computer-controlled animation or kinetic art, or computer-generated painting - as well as those forms that are based on computer software, like Deconstructivist architecture. Computer art may also be called "Digital art", "Internet art", "Software art", or "Computer graphics". Pioneers of this type of art include Harold Cohen, Ronald Davis, George Grie, Jean-Pierre Hebert, Bela Julesz, Olga Kisseleva, John Lansdown, Maughan Mason, Manfred Mohr and Joseph Nechvatal. Later digital artists included: Charles Csuri, Leslie Mezei, Frieder Nake, Georg Nees, A. Michael Noll, Nam June Paik and John Whitney. Other important research pioneers included: Professor Harold Cohen, UCSD, and Ken Goldberg of UC Berkeley. The earliest exhibitions of computer art included: "Generative Computergrafik" (1965) at the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany; "Computer-Generated Pictures" (1965) at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York; "Computer Imagery" (1965) at Galerie Wendelin Niedlich, in Stuttgart, Germany; "Cybernetic Serendipity" (1968) at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. In the 21st century, computer art has become the latest arena of contemporary art - a sort of ultimate postmodernism. In fact, computer-generated art is highly revolutionary - not least because it is has the capability (as artificial intelligence grows) to achieve complete artistic independence. Watch this space!



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