What Is Contemporary Art? | Walker Art Center
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View of the exhibition Liz Deschenes: Gallery 7, 2014

The answer is simple: contemporary art is art made today by living artists. As such, it reflects the complex issues that shape our diverse, global, and rapidly changing world. Through their work, many contemporary artists explore personal or cultural identity, offer critiques of social and institutional structures, or even attempt to redefine art itself. In the process, they often raise difficult or thought-provoking questions without providing easy answers. Curiosity, an open mind, and a commitment to dialogue and debate are the best tools with which to approach a work of contemporary art.

Since its founding in 1940, the Walker has been presenting today’s art in all its forms, including visual art, dance, music, theater, moving image, design, architecture, new media, and many hybrid forms. These works often challenge our ideas about what art should look like or how it should behave. During your visit, you might encounter a dance in which the movement is barely perceptible, a sculpture in the form of a living tree, or a painting made from nothing more than fabric and light.

Questioning established forms is something artists have always done, and supporting today’s makers as they experiment with new, multidisciplinary ways of working is central to the Walker’s mission. But we are also committed to offering audiences deep and meaningful access to the ideas that animate those works. Lectures, post-show conversations, informal receptions, and long-term community residencies are just a few of the ways our visitors can gain real-time insight into an artist’s creative process. This kind of direct engagement with the artwork and artists of our own time is only possible at a center for contemporary art.

Whether you are surprised, perplexed, or thrilled by what you see at the Walker, we hope you are inspired to reflect on the issues important to you and your community. Please come back often, and remember: every artwork was once contemporary.