Gilles Rotzetter

Exploring the Diverse Mediums of Contemporary Art

What Does Contemporary Art Consist of?

Contemporary art doesn’t consist of a singular style, but rather a multitude of styles and mediums. From Jeff Koons sculptures to Yoko Ono’s performance art, to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, contemporary artists use a variety of different styles to address current themes.

Whether they are exploring personal identity or criticizing social structures, these artists break boundaries on an entirely new level that the founders of Modern Art movements could never have dreamed of.


Painting is one of the most common art forms. It can be abstract or figurative, and it is often used to convey a message or emotion. It can also be combined with other mediums to create a unique artistic experience.

Contemporary painters often use new techniques and styles to explore different ideas. They may also acknowledge and find inspiration in art works from previous time periods, either in terms of subject matter or formal elements. This is called appropriation. For example, artist John Baldessari “borrowed” a 1505 engraving of a stag beetle by Albrecht Durer and turned it into a modern art work.

Another popular technique for painting contemporary artwork is stippling, which involves dabbing tiny dots on a canvas to create an image. This style is ideal for creating intricate landscapes and shadowy details. It’s also a great way to add a pop of color to your piece without overwhelming it with too much texture.


Sculpture is one of the most popular forms of art that contemporary artists explore. The medium is incredibly versatile and allows for many different creative processes and conceptualisations. For instance, artists can use a range of different materials in their sculptures – from traditional wood and marble to concrete, resins, plastics, latex, and even food.

Some contemporary sculptors also incorporate elements of text into their work. For example, artist John Baldessari appropriated an image of a beetle from 1505 by German artist Albrecht Durer and used modern-day materials (ink-jet printing mounted on a fiberglass panel) and a giant steel pin to combine mediums in a unique way.

Other sculptors explore themes of identity, culture, and political/social issues in their artwork. For example, Colombian artist Doris Salcedo uses her work to highlight the oppressive political and social climate in her country by incorporating mannequins, animal organs, and witness statements.


When it comes to sculpture, contemporary artists can explore many different things. Some of them will focus on representational forms, such as Jeff Koons’ balloon dogs or Mark Manders’ giant heads. Others will push the boundaries of what qualifies as art by working with “found objects.” Think about Donald Judd’s minimalist sculptures of cubical forms or Frank Stella’s abstract steel sculptures.

In addition, contemporary sculptors can also incorporate elements of performance to explore ideas about identity. One example is Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, who uses sculpture to investigate the cultural and political confines of her country. She has incorporated witness statements, animal organs and discarded furniture into her work.

Like with painting, the subject matter of an installation artwork can be vast. The underlying theme, though, tends to be more important than the technical aspects of the piece. This is a result of the heightened emphasis on social/society themes in most contemporary art. Additionally, many contemporary artists are influenced by past artworks and artists, which may manifest itself as a reference in form or subject matter through an appropriation artwork.


In a contemporary art world that reaches beyond the walls of traditional galleries and museums, video art is another form that has taken shape. It can take the form of a recording meant to mimic more traditional forms such as painting, sculpture or collage. It can also be a form of installation. Artists will use techniques that set them apart from their artistic forebears to convey ideas and concepts such as identity, community, nationality, politics and more.

For example, Damien Hirst used the killing of a large shark in his work Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living to explore themes of zoo-like spectacle and artistic culpability. Other artists, such as Pipilotti Rist, have pushed video art into new proportions with works like her massive 62-screen Times Square installation that uses the urban landscape to question our perceptions of beauty and consumerism.

Other contemporary video artists, such as the New Red Order’s high-speed wide-screen epic Culture Capture: Crimes Against Reality, 2020, examine the narrative of progress and empire through visceral high-tech violence. And still others, such as Trisha Donnelly’s doctored projector lenses, seek to undermine the grand ontological claims of video’s earliest pioneers.

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