artistic works produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s
Travel topics > Cultural attractions > Visual arts > Modern and contemporary art

Modern art and contemporary art are distinct terms used for visual art from the late 19th century until present day, with aesthetics different from European art of earlier centuries. Much contemporary art is abstract.


While the concepts of "modern" and "contemporary" by definition have no clear boundaries in time, they usually refer to some art genres that have emerged since the 19th century. Due to tradition, older European art is usually displayed in institutions separate from modern art museums; for instance the Louvre only features work up to the mid-1800s; later works can be seen at Musée d'Orsay.

In the mid-19th century, photography displaced visual art, producing portraits and scenery pictures for cheap. In the meantime, public education, urbanization and industrial printing allowed more people than ever to make, buy and see art. Pre-modern art styles such as romanticism remained in production well into the 20th century.

  • Impressionism was a movement beginning in the 1870s, characterized by thin brush strokes which brought out an impression of light and movement. Impressionist paintings had mundane motifs, challenging the convention of European art in which religious, mythological or historical scenes had higher status.
  • Art nouveau, in German known as Jugendstil, was a movement in visual art, architecture and interior design, inspired by simple natural geometric patterns.
  • De Stijl is a 1910s Dutch minimalist movement, found throughout north-western continental Europe, known best for its associated artists, Mondrian and Rietveld. The movement inspires modern day designers and artists and the movement's style and is loved by many others.
  • Cubism was a movement most prominent in the early 20th century, with Pablo Picasso being one of its founders and most famous practitioners.
  • Surrealism was an early 20th century movement pioneered by André Breton, with Salvador Dalí being perhaps its most famous practitioner.
  • Post-modernism is mainly a post-1945 movement, known for works which reject all conventions of shape, material, medium, and decorum.

Modern and contemporary art has not just taken use of traditional media such as painting, sculpture and textiles, but also photography, video, sound, and composite installations.


Most large cities in the world has some public art on display. This list contains some renowned art museums, academies, and creative scenes.

Map of Modern and contemporary art


  • 1 Berlin. A modern art hotspot. Start at the Neue Nationalgalerie at the Kulturforum. Its main focus on the early 20th century.
  • 2 Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain). Frank Gehry's spectacular twisting titanium-clad modern art museum is perhaps the most celebrated building of the 1990s, even starting what would be called the 'Bilbao-effect': The idea in urban planning that a star-quality building can single-handedly change the entire image of a city. Although this effect is unproven in its pure form, the Guggenheim nevertheless changed the world wide perception of Bilbao. The graceful, sensuous curves, evocative of the ships that used to be ubiquitous along the docks of Bilbao, are covered in titanium squares, which resemble the scales of a fish and shimmer in the sunlight. In keeping with the maritime theme, appropriate for the setting, the skylights of the largest gallery (formerly known as the Fish gallery) are designed to look like the fins of fish. The permanent collection is not particularly impressive, but the museum always hosts at least one interesting temporary exhibit, frequently comprised of masterpieces from the other Guggenheim collections.
  • 3 Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Reina Sofía National Museum and Art Center) (Madrid, Spain). Housed in a former public hospital with an adjacent modern wing, this museum contains Spain's largest collection of 20th century art. It includes many of Pablo Picasso's most revered works including his renowned Guernica. The Reina Sofía also houses masterpieces by other Spanish masters including Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Juan Gris, and others, as well as works by a number of international artists, including Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Francis Bacon.    
  • 4 Château de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art (Montsoreau, France), .   UNESCO World Heritage Site Housed in the first castle of the Loire to have been built, this museum contains the world's largest collection of Art & Language works, assembled by Philippe Méaille since the late 1990s. Art & Language is a British art movement that has invented and deeply influenced conceptual art and music. The museum includes most famous works of Art & Language, including their renowned Mirror piece, and hosts at least two temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists a year, and many conferences. Photography is permitted. Backpacks are not permitted, but there are free lockers after entrance.    
  • 5 Tate Modern, London. one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.    
  • 6 National Gallery, Oslo. featuring Edvard Munch's The Scream    
  • Paris: 7 Musée d'Orsay     contains Impressionist and early Modernist works. 8 Centre Pompidou     contains post-modern works.
  • 9 Museum of the 20th Century (Museo del Novecento) (Milan, Italy). "Del 900" but meaning "since 1900", this modern art museum has a rich selection of works by Modigliani, Picasso, Morandi, and Boccioni.    
  • Prague: 10 DOX - Centre for contemporary art.  
  • The Stockholm Metro has an impressive art collection, commissioned since the 1960s.
  • 11 Millesgården ([ˈmɪlˌəsˈgoːɖən]) (Lidingö outside Stockholm, Sweden). The former residence and studio of world-renowned sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955). His own work is showcased in an outdoor park with an astounding view of Stockholm Harbour. The indoor section displays Milles' collection of ancient Roman sculptures, along contemporary Swedish and international works.    
  • 12 Fotografiska (The Swedish Museum of Photography). A private museum opened in 2010, in an industrial building from 1906. Besides the exhibitions, they have a diner with a great waterfront view. A branch of this museum opened in New York City in 2020, and there is also a Tallinn location.    
  • 13 Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. featuring the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world    
  • 14 Moscow Museum of Modern Art (Moscow, Russia).    
  • 1 Glasgow International Art Festival (Glasgow, Scotland). 2-3 weeks in April / May of even years. A biennal modern art festival in about 60 venues around the city. The modern art exhibits are in regular galleries and a variety of temporary exhibition spaces. Glasgow also has a good Gallery of Modern Art open all year. free.

North AmericaEdit

United StatesEdit

  • 15 Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York). The gallery's collection includes several pieces spanning art throughout the centuries.    
  • 16 Museum of Modern Art (New York City). Home to some of the world's most famous art pieces such as Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night and Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.    
  • 17 Guggenheim (New York City). The permanent home of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art.    
  • 18 The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago). Its permanent collection of nearly 300,000 works of art includes iconic works such as Georges Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, and Grant Wood's American Gothic.    
  • 19 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) (San Francisco).    
  • 20 Cleveland Museum of Art. Contains a number of Impressionist works.    
  • 21 Toledo Museum of Art. Contains work by Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh. Free.    
  • 22 Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (Atlanta, Georgia). The museum collects and archives contemporary works by Georgia artists.    
  • 23 Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (Denver, Colorado). It hosts temporary exhibitions, but has no permanent collection.    



  • 26 Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo (Museo Rufino Tamayo) (Mexico City). Major artists represented include Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet, Fernand Léger, Wifredo Lam, Pierre Soulages, Frank Auerbach, Alexander Calder, Eduardo Chillida, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Josep Guinovart, Barbara Hepworth, Hans Hartung, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, René Magritte, Manolo Millares, Robert Motherwell, Georgia O´Keeffe, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Mark Rothko, Antoni Tàpies, Joaquín Torres García, Victor Vasarely, and Andy Warhol.    



  • 36 Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Cape Town, South Africa). The largest museum of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.    
  • 37 National Gallery of Modern Art, Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria). Modern portraiture, sculptures, ceramics, and modern textile art that draws on rich traditions from the Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo and other peoples of Nigeria.    
  • 38 Gezira Center for Modern Art (Cairo, Egypt). More than 10,000 paintings and sculptures that show the development of the Egyptian art movement from the early 20th century pioneers through contemporary artists' works.    

South AmericaEdit

  • 39 Inhotim (Brumadinho, Brazil). One of the largest foundations of contemporary art in Brazil and one of the largest outdoor art centers in Latin America.    
  • 40 Museum of Contemporary Art of Rosario (Rosario, Argentina). The museum's collection, made up of 848 works by 464 artists presents a wide panorama on Argentine Art of the last decades.    



See also: Art and antiques shopping

Purchase of high-value art usually takes more knowledge than can fit into an article.

Posters and postcards depicting some of the items hosted at a museum can often be bought in a museum shop. For copyright reasons, replicas of modern art usually cost more than replicas of older art.


In most countries, the copyright of art expires 70 years after the artist's death, placing nearly all 19th-century art in the public domain but restricting reproduction – including photographing – of newer art. Some countries have a different duration, and in the USA the term is (for the relevant period) instead based on year of publication, as defined in copyright jurisprudence. Also where the art is in the public domain, house rules may restrict photography.

Photographing outdoors art, such as architecture and most statues, is in many countries allowed thanks to the freedom of panorama in effect there. These rules vary significantly by country, both in what may be photographed and in what you can do with the photo.

See alsoEdit

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