Demystifying the World of Contemporary Art
From the experts to follow to the artists to collect now, here’s exactly how to navigate the contemporary art world. (Because You Should Really Know More About it by now)
From the experts to follow to the artists to collect now, here’s exactly how to navigate the contemporary art world. (Because You Should Really Know More About it by now)
what is contemporary art
From the experts to follow to the artists to collect now, here’s exactly how to navigate the contemporary art world. (Because You Should Really Know More About it by now)
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Full of inspiring artists and mind-blowing pieces that might change the way you see the world, the realm of contemporary art is an incredibly exciting one. That said, if you don’t know your Arthur Jafa from your Anthea Hamilton, it can also make us feel like imposters. From the experts to follow to the artists to collect now, this is Buro’s guide to discovering the art that works for you.


1

Remember,
anything goes.

Right: Keiken + George Jasper Stone, Feel My Metaverse, 2019 – Installation View. Created for Jerwood Collaborate!, supported by Jerwood Arts and Arts Council England. Photo: Anna Arca.

Left: Fugitive of the State(less) VEDA © Dominique White / courtesy of the artist. Above: Untitled/Neck, 2015 © Sam Contis Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery: Masculinities: Liberation through Photography.

Loosely speaking, art is often just an interpretation of some aspect of life. Someone - the artist - has taken an aspect of it, and zoomed right in. Topics and focus vary of course, as does medium - painting, photography, performance art, installation, sound, sculpture. There’s also multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary art (using several mediums at once). From using drones to DNA to dark matter, really, anything goes. An artist might be concerned with documenting LGBTQIA+/queer life like the photographer Bernice Mulenga or the collective Queerdirect.

They might be interested in gentrification (Gaby Sahhar), spirituality and digital culture (Tabita Rezaire), black diasporic futures (Dominique White), technology and speculative futures (KEIKEN) or even the journey of reaching maximum self-esteem (Rosa Johan Uddoh). An artist’s concerns tend to determine which spaces they exhibit in, who they show work alongside and even their relationship to the art market.


2

Find out what
you like.

Right: Bo from "Being and Having", 1991© Catherine Opie, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery: Masculinities: Liberation through Photography.

LEFT: Soho, 2011 © Anders Petersen Courtesy of Photographers' Gallery Shot In Soho. ABOVE: Elizabet Ney, © Judy Chicago / Courtesy Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

Check out art degree shows around September; Goldsmiths, RCA and Slade are some of the bigger ones, while the BBZ x BLK Alternative Graduate Show is a do-over style graduation for black queer woman artists to exhibit and celebrate their work amongst like-minded and supportive peers.

Exhibition spaces themselves come in all shapes and sizes. Often defined by their missions and values, some spaces are dedicated to specific mediums, like The Photographers’ Gallery and Autograph ABP for photography, while others are driven by broader concerns such as the community-focused 198 Gallery in Brixton. For emerging and more experimental art, check out artist-run and project spaces like Jupiter Woods or Auto Italia, the public programmes at places like the ICA, Serpentine Galleries, and Somerset House Studios and artists prizes like Bloomberg New Contemporaries (an annual showcase of recent graduates at the ICA). Late-night series such as Tate Lates and V&A Lates,, as well as art festivals like Deptford X are a great way to discover artwork, with a drink in hand.

LEFT: Ladies and Gentlemen (Helen/Harry Morales) 1975 © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London. Above: A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, 2014 © Kara Walker / Courtesy of Tate Modern.

Some people like Drake. Some people like Debussy. Many like them both. And like music, the only way to know more about art and work out what you’re into is to engage with it. A good place to start is somewhere with a lot of it - think bigger institutions and galleries, like Tate Modern, Barbican Centre, Nottingham Contemporary, the BALTIC in Newcastle, or Arnolfini in Bristol. These public institutions show ‘survey’ or retrospective-style exhibitions of mid-career and established artists. Many of these spaces have both collections and permanent displays and are a good place to swim around and see work contextualised by a longer history of art production.


3

Read, Watch,
Listen, Follow.

courtesy Frieze Art Fairs © Mark Blower 2019

LEFT: Presence of absence pavilion 2019. © Olafur Eliasson / courtesy Tate Modern. ABOVE: courtesy of Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art

Once you have more of an idea of the type of art you like, platforms like Instagram and Vimeo make it easy to find and follow the work and upcoming events of artists and galleries whose work you like. Downloading the app Artrabbit is a smart move - a handy listings platform for international contemporary art exhibitions and events that uses GPS to keep suggestions local and immediate. If you find yourself less than buzzing to go outside this winter, have a read of John Berger's seminal Ways of Seeing and then check out the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art Series on MIT Press; digestible introductions to some of the defining themes, concerns, artists and thinkers of contemporary art. Many galleries have their own media channels, with artist interviews, mini-docs, exhibition trailers and archived recordings of panels and talks - check out TateShots, Art21 and Bloomberg’s Art + Technology series.

ABOVE: installation view of, Lending Enchantment to Vulgar Materials, WIELS, Brussels, 2015. © Mark Leckey / courtesy Tate Modern. RIGHT: Real Time Spasm - Fuck the Sugarsystem (I'ts Easier to Make a Hole Than, Build a Pole) 1998 Courtesy of Honey-Suckle Company / ICA

For one-on-one artist interviews, tune into the monthly artist radio shows Rough Version on NTS Radio by art writer and curator Francesca Gavin and Studio Visit on Resonance FM by writer, broadcaster, musician and curator Morgan Quaintance. Monthly podcasts Modern Art Notes and State of the Art are also a great listen, while Casey Jane Ellison’s webseries Touching the Art, is a hilarious art-world decoder, as is White Pube collective (Zarina Muhammad & Gabrielle de la Puente), follow them on YouTube and Instagram for uniquely unpretentious art criticism.


4

Make it
yours.

Right: courtesy Frieze Art Fairs © Mark Blower 2019. BELOW: Upper row, from left to right: A, a model; Toshiteru, Sukezo, Masahisa. Middle row, from left to right: Akiko, Mitsue, Hisashi Daikoji. Bottom row, from left to right: Gaku, Kyoko, Kanako, and a memorial portrait of Miyako, 1985, from the series Family, 1971-90, © Masahisa Fukase Archives / Courtesy Barbican Art Gallery: Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography

Boy with Flowers 1955-7, ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London]

For burgeoning collectors ready to start taking art home, start by spending some time with Artsy. Covering over 1,000,000 artworks and 100,000 artists, and featuring the world’s leading galleries, museum collections, foundations, artist estates, art fairs, it is the largest online database of contemporary art and platform for discovering and collecting art. Here you can ‘follow’ artists, see prices and build a portfolio really easily, and it covers a wide range of price points.

If you’re looking to take some art home with you, head to Art Fairs like 1:54 African Art Fair, or Frieze London, where commercial galleries display the work of artists they represent in ‘booths’. These large scale fairs include a great mix of younger and more established galleries, again covering a spread of price points. Many also have guided tours with art specialists, and performance and talk programmes to contextualise the work, definitely worth it if you’re new to the contemporary art scene.


Artists to start collecting now


Full of inspiring artists and mind-blowing pieces that might change the way you see the world, the realm of contemporary art is an incredibly exciting one. That said, if you don’t know your Arthur Jafa from your Anthea Hamilton, it can also make us feel like imposters. From the experts to follow to the artists to collect now, this is Buro’s guide to discovering the art that works for you.

1

Remember,
anything goes.

1: Keiken + George Jasper Stone, Feel My Metaverse, 2019 – Installation View. Created for Jerwood Collaborate!, supported by Jerwood Arts and Arts Council England. Photo: Anna Arca. 2: Fugitive of the State(less) VEDA © Dominique White / courtesy of the artist. 3: Untitled/Neck, 2015 © Sam Contis Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery: Masculinities: Liberation through Photography.

Loosely speaking, art is often just an interpretation of some aspect of life. Someone - the artist - has taken an aspect of it, and zoomed right in. Topics and focus vary of course, as does medium - painting, photography, performance art, installation, sound, sculpture. There’s also multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary art (using several mediums at once). From using drones to DNA to dark matter, really, anything goes. An artist might be concerned with documenting LGBTQIA+/queer life like the photographer Bernice Mulenga or the collective Queerdirect.

They might be interested in gentrification (Gaby Sahhar), spirituality and digital culture (Tabita Rezaire), black diasporic futures (Dominique White), technology and speculative futures (KEIKEN) or even the journey of reaching maximum self-esteem (Rosa Johan Uddoh). An artist’s concerns tend to determine which spaces they exhibit in, who they show work alongside and even their relationship to the art market.

2

Find out what
you like.

1: Bo from "Being and Having", 1991© Catherine Opie, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Thomas Dane Gallery, London; and Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery: Masculinities: Liberation through Photography. 2: Soho, 2011 © Anders Petersen Courtesy of Photographers' Gallery Shot In Soho. 3: Elizabet Ney, © Judy Chicago / Courtesy Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

Check out art degree shows around September; Goldsmiths, RCA and Slade are some of the bigger ones, while the BBZ x BLK Alternative Graduate Show is a do-over style graduation for black queer woman artists to exhibit and celebrate their work amongst like-minded and supportive peers.

Exhibition spaces themselves come in all shapes and sizes. Often defined by their missions and values, some spaces are dedicated to specific mediums, like The Photographers’ Gallery and Autograph ABP for photography, while others are driven by broader concerns such as the community-focused 198 Gallery in Brixton. For emerging and more experimental art, check out artist-run and project spaces like Jupiter Woods or Auto Italia, the public programmes at places like the ICA, Serpentine Galleries, and Somerset House Studios and artists prizes like Bloomberg New Contemporaries (an annual showcase of recent graduates at the ICA). Late-night series such as Tate Lates and V&A Lates,, as well as art festivals like Deptford X are a great way to discover artwork, with a drink in hand.

1: Ladies and Gentlemen (Helen/Harry Morales) 1975 © 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London. 2: A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, 2014 © Kara Walker / Courtesy of Tate Modern.

Some people like Drake. Some people like Debussy. Many like them both. And like music, the only way to know more about art and work out what you’re into is to engage with it. A good place to start is somewhere with a lot of it - think bigger institutions and galleries, like Tate Modern, Barbican Centre, Nottingham Contemporary, the BALTIC in Newcastle, or Arnolfini in Bristol. These public institutions show ‘survey’ or retrospective-style exhibitions of mid-career and established artists. Many of these spaces have both collections and permanent displays and are a good place to swim around and see work contextualised by a longer history of art production.

3

Read, Watch,
Listen, Follow.

1: courtesy Frieze Art Fairs © Mark Blower 2019. 2: Presence of absence pavilion 2019. © Olafur Eliasson / courtesy Tate Modern. 3: courtesy of Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art

Once you have more of an idea of the type of art you like, platforms like Instagram and Vimeo make it easy to find and follow the work and upcoming events of artists and galleries whose work you like. Downloading the app Artrabbit is a smart move - a handy listings platform for international contemporary art exhibitions and events that uses GPS to keep suggestions local and immediate. If you find yourself less than buzzing to go outside this winter, have a read of John Berger's seminal Ways of Seeing and then check out the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art Series on MIT Press; digestible introductions to some of the defining themes, concerns, artists and thinkers of contemporary art. Many galleries have their own media channels, with artist interviews, mini-docs, exhibition trailers and archived recordings of panels and talks - check out TateShots, Art21 and Bloomberg’s Art + Technology series.

1: installation view of, Lending Enchantment to Vulgar Materials, WIELS, Brussels, 2015. © Mark Leckey / courtesy Tate Modern. 2: Real Time Spasm - Fuck the Sugarsystem (I'ts Easier to Make a Hole Than, Build a Pole) 1998 Courtesy of Honey-Suckle Company / ICA

For one-on-one artist interviews, tune into the monthly artist radio shows Rough Version on NTS Radio by art writer and curator Francesca Gavin and Studio Visit on Resonance FM by writer, broadcaster, musician and curator Morgan Quaintance. Monthly podcasts Modern Art Notes and State of the Art are also a great listen, while Casey Jane Ellison’s webseries Touching the Art, is a hilarious art-world decoder, as is White Pube collective (Zarina Muhammad & Gabrielle de la Puente), follow them on YouTube and Instagram for uniquely unpretentious art criticism.

4

Make it
yours.

1: courtesy Frieze Art Fairs © Mark Blower 2019. 2: Upper row, from left to right: A, a model; Toshiteru, Sukezo, Masahisa. Middle row, from left to right: Akiko, Mitsue, Hisashi Daikoji. Bottom row, from left to right: Gaku, Kyoko, Kanako, and a memorial portrait of Miyako, 1985, from the series Family, 1971-90, © Masahisa Fukase Archives / Courtesy Barbican Art Gallery: Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography. 3: Boy with Flowers 1955-7, ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London]

For burgeoning collectors ready to start taking art home, start by spending some time with Artsy. Covering over 1,000,000 artworks and 100,000 artists, and featuring the world’s leading galleries, museum collections, foundations, artist estates, art fairs, it is the largest online database of contemporary art and platform for discovering and collecting art. Here you can ‘follow’ artists, see prices and build a portfolio really easily, and it covers a wide range of price points.

If you’re looking to take some art home with you, head to Art Fairs like 1:54 African Art Fair, or Frieze London, where commercial galleries display the work of artists they represent in ‘booths’. These large scale fairs include a great mix of younger and more established galleries, again covering a spread of price points. Many also have guided tours with art specialists, and performance and talk programmes to contextualise the work, definitely worth it if you’re new to the contemporary art scene.

Artists to start collecting now

Share the story
Link copied