Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks

Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks


By (author) Daniel Birnbaum, By (author) Cornelia H. Butler, By (author) Suzanne Cotter, Edited by Bice Curiger, Edited by Okwui Enwezor, Edited by Massimiliano Gioni, Illustrated by Bob Nickas, Illustrated by Hans Ulrich Obris

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  • Publisher: Phaidon Press Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 222mm x 298mm x 54mm | 2,781g
  • Publication date: 7 November 2011
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0714862096
  • ISBN 13: 9780714862095
  • Illustrations note: 700 colour, 100 black and white
  • Sales rank: 164,140

Product description

In the mid-1980s the sprouting of new movements that had driven modern art since the nineteenth century finally went dormant, sputtering out with a few last half-hearted labels ('pattern painting', 'neo-geo', 'commodity art'). But this was not the end of art history - far from it. In the years since, art's creative development has remained more vibrant than ever, resulting in a diversity of new forms that is truly staggering. Defining Contemporary Art responds to this unique landscape with an innovative approach to art history. Selected by the eight most prominent curators working today, all of whom have both witnessed and shaped this period, Defining Contemporary Art today tells the story of the 200 pivotal artworks of the past 25 years. With insightful texts and generous illustrations, it offers the most complete, accurate and easy-to-use guide to the history of contemporary art. A vital sourcebook for historians and art practitioners, it is also an accessible introduction for anyone eager to understand the art of our time.

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Author information

Daniel Birnbaum is Director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Formerly Director of Portikus in Frankfurt, where he was also Rektor at the Staedelschule from 2001 to 2010, he has organized numerous international exhibitions, including the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009) and the 1st Moscow Biennial (2004). He writes regularly for a range of magazines, including Artforum and Domus, and he has contributed to a number of Phaidon publications, including Doug Aitken (2001) and Olafur Eliasson (2002). Connie Butler is Chief Curator of Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she has curated such exhibitions as 'Marlene Dumas: Measuring Your Own Grave' (2008-09) and 'Paul Sietsema Figure 3' (2009) and co-curated 'On Line: Drawing Through the 20th Century' (2010-11). As Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles from 1996-2005 she worked on numerous exhibitions, including 'Afterimage: Drawing Through Process' (1999), 'Rodney Graham: A Little Thought' (2004) and the major touring exhibition 'WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution' (2007). Suzanne Cotter is Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Curator of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Project. In 2011 she co-curated the 11th Sharjah Biennial. From 2002 to 2010 she was Senior Curator at Modern Art Oxford, where her exhibitions included 'Mike Nelson: Triple Bluff Canyon' (2004), 'Out of Beirut' (2006) and 'Pawel Althamer: Common Task' (2009). She was curator of the Hayward Gallery in London from 1998 to 2002. Bice Curiger has been Curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich since 1993, where her exhibitions have included 'Birth of the Cool' (1997), 'Hypermental' (2000) and 'The Expanded Eye' (2006). She is Editor-in-Chief of Parkett, which she co-founded in 1984, and Publishing Director of Tate etc. magazine. Her writing on contemporary art has been published in a range of magazines and books, including Phaidon's Franz West (1999) and Fresh Cream (2000). In 2011 she was Artistic Director of the 54th Venice Biennale. Okwui Enwezor is Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich and Adjuct Curator at the International Center of Photography in New York. His exhibitions as an independent curator include 'The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994' (2001-02), 'Global Conceptualism' (1999-2000) and 'Mirror's Edge' (1999-2000). He served as the Artistic Director of the 7th Gwangju Biennial (2008), Documenta 11 (2002) and the 2nd Johannesburg Biennial (1999). He writes regularly for a number of magazines and journals, and his books include Contemporary African Art Since 1980 (2009) and Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art (2008). Massimiliano Gioni is Associate Director at the New Museum, New York, and Artistic Director at Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan. He curated the 8th Gwangju Biennial in 2010, and in 2006 he curated the 4th Berlin Biennial with Ali Subotnick and Maurizio Cattelan, with whom he founded the Wrong Gallery in New York in 2002. His publications include contributions to Phaidon's Maurizio Cattelan (2003), Ice Cream (2007) and Unmonumental (2007). Bob Nickas is an independent curator based in New York. He has organized more than eighty exhibitions since 1984 and served on the teams responsible for Aperto at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and for the 2003 Biennale de Lyon. From 2003-06 he was Curatorial Advisor at PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York. The author of numerous essays in catalogues and monographs, his books include Phaidon's Painting Abstraction (2009); a complete survey of his shows, Catalog of the Exhibition (2011); and two collections of his writing, Live Free or Die (2000) and Theft is Vision (2007). Hans Ulrich Obrist is Co-Director of the Serpentine Gallery in London. Previously he was Curator at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and since 1991 he has curated over 250 exhibitions around the world, including 'Utopia Station' (2003), 'Laboratorium' (1999) and 'Cities on the Move' (1997). He is a contributing editor at magazines including Abitare, Artforum and 032c and has written for numerous Phaidon books, including including Ai Weiwei (2009), Anri Sala (2004) and Cream (1998). In 2011 he received the Bard College Award for Curatorial Excellence.

Review quote

'ambitious in scope .. an attempt to write the art history of the last 25 years through artworks, rather than to define the 'contemporary'. ... The notion of the 'pivotal' artwork is the guiding principle here ... Some of the artworks do appear truly pivotal in the sense that they transformed the artistic culture that came after ... because the artworks and essays are [...] ordered chronologically, it's revealing to see each year as a snapshot based on the way that it appears to the panel now.' Art Review 'Phaidon writes the latest chapter in art history ... examine[s] with fresh eyes both the obvious suspects - such as the entry on Jeff Koon's Rabbit (1986) penned by Gioni - alongside works whose importance has grown since their making - like Nickas's re-evaluation of Sherrie Levine's La Fortune (After Man Ray) (1989).' Flash Art 'If there are multiple concepts embedded within the idea of art, perhaps multiple tour leaders are what is required. Whilst there is a constant stream of chunky picture books offering glossy surveys of recent art history, Defining Contemporary Art - 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks has [ ... ] instead of essays [ ... ] eight art world luminaries select significant artworks and present them chronologically. The strength of this book lies in its list of contributors' Art Monthly '...the reader is tempted with an array of dazzling images and supporting essays to tease out their own grand narratives. Whether you are an art historian, collector or a casual art peruser, this survey of the past 25 years from a curatorial perspective is certainly a feast for the eyes.' The Huffington Post '...not only addresses the obstacle of pinning down the nebulous term 'contemporary art,' but also manages to pull off a legible presentation of it in a single book...Ultimately, Defining Contemporary Art functions as both a demonstration of contemporary curation and a poly-contextualized historical view.' Art Log