Modern Art is a general term, used for most of the artistic production from the late 19th Century till the end of the 20th. (Recent art production is more often called contemporary art). Modern art refers to a new approach to art where it was no longer important to literally represent a subject (through painting or sculpture) -- the invention of photography had made this function of art obsolete. Instead, artist started experimenting with new ways of seeing, with fresh ideas about the nature, materials and functions of art, often moving towards further abstraction.
The notion of modern art is closely related to modernism.
During its first decades, modern art was an exclusively European phenomenon. The first seeds of modern ideas in art came from artists working in the romantic and realist movements. Next, representatives of impressionism and post-impressionism started experimenting with new ways of representing light and space through color and paint. In the pre-WWI years of the 20th Century, a creative explosion took place with fauvism, cubism, expressionism and futurism.
World War I brought an end to this phase, but indicated the beginning of a number of anti-art movements, such as dada and the work of Marcel Duchamp, and of surrealism. Also, artist groups like de Stijl and Bauhaus were seminal in the development of new ideas about the interrelation of the arts, architecture, design and art education.
Modern art was introduced to America during World War I when a number of the artists in the Montmartre and Montparnasse Quarters of Paris, France fled the War. Francis Picabia (1879-1953), was responsible for bringing Modern Art to New York City. It was only after World War II, though, that the USA became the focal point of new artistic movements. The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of abstract expressionism, pop art, op art and minimal art; in the late 1960s and the 1970s, land art, performance art, conceptual art and photorealism have emerged.
Starting from the postwar period, less artists used painting as their primary medium; instead, larger installations and performances became widespread. Since the 1970s, media art has become a category in itself, with a growing number of artists experimenting with technological means -- video art is the most well-known example here.
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2 Alphabetical list of important modern art exhibitions and museums
Chronological list of movements and artist groups, with representatives
End of 19th Century
Early 20th Century (before WWI)
Between WWI and WWII
Alphabetical list of important modern art exhibitions and museums