Today the big Armory Show/Fair itself opens to the public on the two 12th street docks, divided between the modern show and the contemporary show. So what actually is the difference between Modern and Contemporary art?
The Modern Art era is said to have begun during the American Civil War period, the 1860s, even more precisely in 1863 with the work of Manet. Modern art is characterized by the attempt to capture the essence of a subject rather than the resemblance of it. For just this reason it moved more and more towards abstract as time went by.
The major painters of the early modern period include Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Claude Monet, or the Impressionists and Post-impressionists. The early 20th century was dominated by the rivalry between the Cubism of Pablo Picasso and the Fauvism of Henri Matisse. The interwar period saw the rise of Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, and the Bauhaus of Wassily Kandinsky.
Finally the post war years saw the birth of Abstract Expressionism which the first American movement to dominate art worldwide. For the first time New York City, and not Paris, was the center of the art world. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, James Brooks, and many others define this period.
My personal opinion is that the Modern Art period began to end with the death of Jackson Pollock who pioneered the 'drip painting' method in which he laid a canvas on the floor and threw paint on it. But technically the period was extended into the 1960s and even the 70s by the rise of Lyrical Abstraction which was a movement once again dominated by Europeans as the United States struggled with the Vietnam War and it's aftermath.
Either way the era had ended before I ever set eyes on my first brush.
The idea here was to explain the difference between the Modern and Contemporary eras but I seem to have gotten a little carried away so I think I'll make two posts out of this. Hope this was easy enough to understand.
*I tried not to turn this into a masters thesis but keep in mind there at least a dozen major movements in the Modern era and each can be broken down into three or four sub-movements.