The Ins and Outs of Defining Contemporary Art

The Ins and Outs of Defining Contemporary Art

Phaidon's Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks

The history of contemporary art can be a difficult thing to qualify, not least because it’s something that’s still growing and changing. The last 25 years have seen seemingly countless artists rise to prominence—but which of them will we still be talking about 25 years from now? With their book Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years in 200 Pivotal Artworks, eight of the world’s leading international curators—including curators from the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Kunsthaus Zürich—discuss the 200 works of art from the past two-and-a-half decades that they believe will have a lasting impact on future generations of artists.

From iconic pieces like Damien Hirst’s A Thousand Years (1990) and Jeff Koons’ Puppy (1992) to lesser-known works like On Kawara’s Pure Consciousness (1998), Defining Contemporary Art draws upon analyses of 200 pieces of contemporary art to track the development of the vibrant and exciting movement that defines the art world as we know it today.

The eight curator/co-authors will be on hand at the Museum of Modern Art’s Bartos Theater this Friday, May 4th for “DEFINING CONTEMPORARY ART: Writing Art History as it Happens,” a lively roundtable discussion that will see these contemporary art experts speak on their choices for the book and examine how one begins to analyze the historical significance of a movement that is still very much going strong.

More information on this upcoming event can be found at; for more on the book and its curators, visit


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