Some History of Modern Contemporary Art

The Contemporary Artists Portfolio provides you with a map of contemporary art that resonates with collectors and art lovers alike. Contemporary art includes art produced today or any art created after WWII. Society often views contemporary art as something outside the norm, odd or unusual forms of artistic expression that are meant to shock or surprise audiences. Contemporary artists give us a new way to appreciate art, through the use of unexpected and unlikely mediums and a unique perspective of the world around us. Outsider art, where artists are self-taught and not confined to any artistic tradition or medium, is an example of contemporary art that can provide observers with an unexpected or astonishing surprise. In fact, contemporary art of all kinds has been subject to controversy, skepticism and even lawsuits.

In 1990, the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, Ohio came under fire for exhibiting photos by Robert Mapplethorpe. The controversial exhibit (Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment) included photographic depictions of homosexuality and sadomasochism. Just after opening, the museum and the museum director were slapped with obscenity charges. It was the first time an American museum director was indicted for his choice of popular contemporary art. The museum and its director were ultimately acquitted of all charges, but not before the city united in its protest against censorship and the right to free speech. Both qualities are exceedingly important components of contemporary pop art.

Darrin Gleeman of New York, New York takes us on a tour of his favorite commercial pop painters, Cissy Petty of New Orleans, Louisiana talks about popular corporate branding artists and graphic design professionals and George Roberts of Stowe, Vermont discusses adding contemporary artists to your investment portfolio.

Commercial Pop Painters Pop into the Art Scene by Darrin Gleeman of New York, New York

Commercial pop painters first started garnering attention in the 1950’s. The “pop” comes from artists who draw inspiration from images in popular culture. Iconic artists like Roy Lichtenstein (1923 – 1997) created powerful images of popular culture heavily inspired by comic books and advertising. Pop artist Keith Haring (1958-1990) was motivated by the streets of New York to chalk drawings in the subways and later painted objects, mixed materials and murals with his instantly recognizable figures.

Ron English (1966- ) is one of our family’s favorite pop artists. English’s works span everything from billboards to modernist paintings. Inspired by Andy Warhol, Ron English creatively changes commercial messages in way that expresses his political beliefs. His controversial billboard refacing efforts include poking fun at cigarette companies and fast food corporations. His paintings also take a playful, contemplative look at topics ranging from religion to children. His satirical works shock many, infuriate others and leave everyone with a titillating topic of discussion.

Colorful and striking, the works of commercial pop painter Kenny Scharf (1958- ) always thrill admirers. Inspired by Surrealist artists, Scharf coined the term Pop-Surrealism to reflect his usage of pop imagery and the subconscious. Scharf has seen a lot of commercial success with his popular works which include paintings, sculpture, lifeguard stations, lighters and cell phones. Charming and affordable, small sculptures by Kenny Scharf might be the perfect start to a new pop art collection.

Commercial pop painters have been a favorite of collectors and curators for years. If you’re looking to start or expand a collection of pop art, don’t be afraid to think globally- and locally. Look for commercial pop painters online in far-flung regions of the world for a vast array of schools and mediums. Locally, take a look at local art schools’ exhibitions and art festivals- the painters of today might just be the pop stars of tomorrow.

Corporate Branding Artists and Graphic Design Professionals Create Collectible Contemporary Pop Art by Cissy Petty of New Orleans, Louisiana

Corporate branding artists and graphic design professionals have created some of the most innovative and collectable art for sale today. Charley Harper (1922-2007), a beloved contemporary artist, was as well-known for his professional graphic design work, which appeared in popular children’s books, cookbooks and National Park Services posters as he was for his fine art. Harper’s depictions of nature inspired many artists and he worked closely with popular retro designers like Todd Oldham in the last years of his life.

Elliott Erwitt (1928- ) is a highly specialized corporate branding and journalist photographer, who works closely with companies all over the world to create clever and funny advertising art. Erwitt focuses his lens on everyday people, finding the unique and absurd qualities in each of his subjects. His popular photos stand out for their humor, always making us laugh with his clever shots of people and animals.

Contemporary artist Rex Ray (1956) is also a successful corporate branding artist, designing creative advertising for national and international companies. His contemporary paintings evoke mid-century furnishings and the Surrealist art of Joan Miro with their splashy sense of style and uninhibited use of color. In his work as a highly regarded graphic design professional, Ray has also created a wide variety of original rock and roll tour posters. First edition concert posters reflect images of popular culture and are very collectable; something to consider when you buy contemporary art.

Vintage fruit crate labels made in America and designed by graphic design professionals are an affordable and fun addition to a pop art collection. Look for fruit crate labels from the apple orchards of eastern Washington or the orange farms of California. Collectors of this unique advertising art seek out the works of specific graphic design professionals, or collect labels by region, age or type of fruit or vegetable.

Buying Modern Contemporary Art to Make Money by George Roberts of Stowe, Vermont

If you’re looking at art as an investment, consider buying modern contemporary art. Conduct research on different artists, mediums and schools to find out what type of art appeals to you. Specifically, look to buy modern contemporary artists that have already had shows, or received some important commissions (from a park or city, for example).

Communicate with the artist if you can or with gallery owners or curators, and don’t be shy about asking questions. You’re putting your money on the line and they understand and appreciate your investment. Questions to ask include: How many paintings has the artist sold? Who has purchased the paintings? How many times has the artist exhibited?

Decide before you begin buying modern contemporary art if you want to establish a comprehensive collection or just own a few unique pieces. You may be willing to pay more per piece if you only plan to buy a two or three items. But be forewarned; once you start collecting modern contemporary art you might just find that you need more than a few pieces to quench your newfound art appreciation!

If you are self-employed like most artists or actors and live anywhere in California, Got Affordable Health Insurance can help you with affordable health insurance coverage. You can choose from a host of national insurance providers such as Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, PacifiCare and HealthNet.

We thank our contributors:

  • Darrin Gleeman of New York, New York
  • Cissy Petty, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • George Roberts of Stowe, Vermont

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