The term Modern art covers the artistic works and contextual practises and philosophy of the art movements from the 1860s to the 1970s.
Description and History
The term is associated with art that is forward thinking and where the traditions of past art have been cast aside in favour of experimentation and idiosyncratic expressionism. Modern art movements enjoyed a disparity unknown in any stage of art history and revolutionised how we see traditional materials and functions of art.
The Post-Impressionists were the founders of Modern art. Painters like Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat, dissatisfied with the limitations of Impressionism, placed new impetus on the expressive value of colour. As the twentieth century dawned, Henri Matisse and his contemporaries, including Andre Derain and a pre-cubist Georges Braque revolutionised the art world with Fauvism, which utilised wild brush strokes and a kaleidoscopic palette of colour.
In 1907, Pablo Picasso produced his first true Cubist artwork with “Les Demoiselles d'Avignon” (MoMA), which manifested into Analytic Cubism and Synthetic Cubism, practised by Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp and Braque. As well as radicalizing how an image should be viewed, Synthetic Cubism was also characterised by the introduction of different surfaces, textures and papier collé.
In 1924, Surrealism was founded by Andre Breton and the art world was proliferated with Salvador Dalí’s melting clocks and dreamlike imagery. Marcel Duchamp stunned the art world in 1917 when he exhibited “Fountain”, an upside down urinal which was voted the most influential artwork of the twentieth century by five-hundred artists and historians in 2004.
As the whole world began to recover from World War II, the US began to replace Europe as the main artistic hub of the world and the 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol.
Guide for Collectors
Nearly each new chapter of Modern Art was received with scorn and ridicule by both critics and public alike. Yet as the individual movements settled into history, they have become extremely collectable by art enthusiasts and the market is particularly competitive.
All ten of the most expensive paintings ever sold have been produced by painters from the Modernist period. Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s have held auctions for a long list of Modern masters, including Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol and Gustav Klimt. Depending on the popularity of either the artist or the artwork in question, prices can reach incredible amounts.
Until 2011, the most expensive 'Modern Art' painting ever sold was “No. 5. 1948” by Jackson Pollock. Initially owned by David Geffen, it was sold in a private deal, which was brokered by Sotheby’s, for £75m in November 2006.
This record was broken in April 2011 with the sale of 'The Card Players' by Paul Cezanne to the Qatari royal family. The private sale was reportedly worth a record $250 million, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold.
In November 2006, “Woman III” (1953) by Willem de Kooning was sold at a private auction, organised by Larry Gagosian. Initially owned by David Geffen, the painting sold for a realised price of $137.5m.
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