Contemporary Vs. Abstract - Understand the Jargon of Modern Art

Contemporary Vs. Abstract - Understand the Jargon of Modern Art

Posted by Emma Anderson on 19th Dec 2021

When discussing art, people often use terms such as "contemporary art" and "abstract art" to refer to modern art prints and paintings. In reality, these terms are not interchangeable. All you need to enjoy art is a pair of eyes and sometimes not even that, but it's always great to understand things that have deeply impacted our culture. Not to mention, it's always better to understand the origins of artwork before you invest in it.

So here's a brief guide to contemporary and abstract art for you to use the next time you purchase new art prints.

What is Abstract Art?

Abstract art refers to an art style that started picking up around the early 20th century worldwide. Its core idea is to leave behind reality and indulge in shapes and forms that appear surreal. Some of the abstract art movement pioneers were Pablo Picasso, John MirĂ³, Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Agnes Martin, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko.

It's practiced to this day, but it peaked sometime around the last century. It's an essential part of modern art as it's one of the most influential art styles in famous paintings that belong to the recent past.

What is Contemporary Art?

The term contemporary can be used for any art that is being created right now or has come into being in your lifetime. As a result, the definition of contemporary art varies for every generation. This is why various art movements such as surrealism, impressionism, cubism, and pop art have been described as "contemporary". There truly is no end to contemporary art since it is not bound within a specific period.

Abstract Vs. Contemporary

As the above definitions suggest, abstract and contemporary do not mean the same. Most of us have grown up believing so because abstract art is still prevalent to this day and is thus, a part of the art world that's contemporary for us. Abstract art begins with taking a real-life object and giving it an otherworldly appearance, whereas contemporary art cannot be defined in a single method of creation.

Many art historians and art lovers consider every painting made after the 1970s as contemporary. This period overlaps with the advent of abstract art, leading to most of us making honest mistakes.


The debate and confusion regarding abstract or contemporary art are never-ending. At the end of the day, what truly matters is how much the paintings of this period inspire us.

If you're interested in modern art terminology, then the chances are that you'd love the actual artworks too. The original masterpieces by renowned artists from these eras aren't within reach of most people, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get to enjoy them. Arttree is home to numerous abstract and contemporary canvas prints that will become the pride and joy of your home. Installing them is an excellent way of honoring your love for modern art while decorating your space.