Catalog Essay

A widely known belief that comes to people’s minds when they view a piece of contemporary art is along the lines of, “I could have done that,” to which artists may reply with, “Yes, but you didn’t.” My argument is that contemporary art will never be regarded as fine art by a wider audience simply because it is “against time” and has not had enough exposure in the world. Contemporary art is characterized by the fact that it does not have a single characteristic or distinctive feature. Artists are able to innovate and create modern masterpieces because of their innovation skills. Art is also contemporary when it is created by artists who are still alive and working today. Many people do not understand contemporary art. They believe that contemporary art shouldn’t even be in the same category as other art movements that have happened previously in history because they say artists before would spend hours learning and mastering their skill to become good, as where it is different now and it is not the case. The conflict here is that contemporary art isn’t as valued because people value the level of mastery needed for the works of art, rather than someone coming up with an idea and executing it with no real skill.

I will be examining the artworks of four contemporary artists to demonstrate that contemporary art is worthy of attention rather than the response many give which is, “I could have done that.” Some artists that I will touch upon in this art exhibition will be Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Yayoi Kusama, Banksy, and Jeff Koons. I chose these specific artists because I have seen their art either in real life or in social media and it has stood out to me and I personally enjoy their works of art. Art is all around us, for example when we go to those exhibitions in the city to take aesthetically looking pictures, we are actively participating in these art installations which is exactly what the artist wants us to do. When we see specific works of art going viral on social media, we should really ask ourselves what attracts us to this and why do we all somehow relate to these artworks, and why so many people are drawn to them. The artworks I have chosen for my exhibition will depict the multitude of concepts that contemporary art is, where it’s not limited to only one form aesthetic but rather challenges the different natures of art.

I want to touch on the artist’s Sun Yuan and Peng Yu which created the art installation called, “Can’t Help Myself.” The liquid that surrounds the machine is the oil, and the oil keeps leaking out of the machine and it’s programmed to try and contain the liquid. This machine has been running since 2016, and throughout the years it has become slower, because the leak of the oil is inevitable, therefore the machine gets weaker. Many have come up with their own interpretation of this, but there will always be people who critique it and say that this is a robot, it doesn’t have feelings therefore how are we supposed to relate to it? But interestingly enough, people even comment on this artwork that they see themselves as this machine, they even see this as how hard sometimes a parent works to keep everything contained but that they are only human, and one can only do so much. This art installation is not meant to be perceived as beautiful or aesthetically pleasing to look at, but the meaning behind this is immeasurable. There are hundreds of interpretations under the post that show a video of “Can’t Help Myself.” As there are people who just don’t seem to get it, there are people who also pour out their emotions and seem to have some kind of emotional attachment and response to it.

This is the epitome of how the contemporary art movement is. Art belongs to everyone as there is always art around us, and because of that, it is one of the topics on which controversy rests. There will always be critics who don’t understand the work of art and might even say that it shouldn’t be considered an art piece, but there are those who do, and that’s who these kinds of art pieces are designed for. They really aren’t meant for everyone, not everyone gets art, and those who do appreciate it have to learn to live with that. As long as you enjoy looking at art and interpreting it, then that is all that matters because we know that at the end of the day, art is subjective to any kind of interpretation.





Why You Don’t Get Contemporary Art | Jessica Backus | TedxCornellTech


Blumberg, Naomi. “What’s the Difference Between Modern and Contemporary Art?”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Accessed 11 December 2021.


Is Modern Art a Sham? By Heather Horn