Who's Afraid of Contemporary Art?


An A to Z Guide to the Art World
By Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi

"Contemporary Art can be hard work." If you agree with authors Kyung and Cerasi that contemporary art can be difficult to comprehend, this guide may be of interest to you.

In alphabetical order, the authors cover 26 plus aspects of the contemporary art world. You'll learn how curators, gallerists, collectors and critics decide which artists are brought to our attention, determine which work to validate and predict which art is likely to endure over time. The role contemporary art museums, art fairs, biennials and prizes play in the global art market is covered as well. Conceptual, installation and performance art are discussed with examples as well as video and other art created with technology. The challenges of conserving such art is another matter for the authors' consideration.

There's a humorous flow chart for creating an exhibition and a thought provoking essay on whether art can build a better world. Perhaps you can identify with the chapter entitled "WTF?! What on earth am I looking at?"

This book came to my attention during the Mint Museum's exhibition of State of the Art – Discovering American Art Now. The exhibit, created by the Crystal Bridges Museum in 2013 includes work by contemporary artists from every region of the country. Their curatorial team logged 100,000 miles on a road trip to 1,000 destinations to visit nearly 1,000 artists. 100 artists were chosen to be featured in the nationwide survey of contemporary American art.

The works in the exhibit are all very different as is characteristic of contemporary art. There is no school or manifesto to help you categorize the art of our immediate times. I found this short book helpful in preparing for tours of that exhibit and for engaging visitors in the Mint's Contemporary Art gallery. There's a list of resources to consult for further study too.

My take-away from the book: the authors' suggestion that we stop asking "is it Art?" and start thinking "how can I engage with this work and what does it mean to me?"

About the authors:

Kyung An is Assistant Curator for Asian Art at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. She has a PhD in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Jessica Cerasi was Exhibition Manager at Carroll/Fletcher Gallery at the time the book was written. She was the Assistant Curator of the 20th Biennale of Sydney in 2016.

Published in 2017 by Thames and Hudson

Renee Reese, Docent, Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC




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