About time

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


What does it mean for an artefact to be considered ‘contemporary’? We might reason that it is art produced by our contemporaries in the present. Not all art that is recently produced, however, can be understood as contemporary in any critical sense. It would be difficult to consider the ‘genuine fake’ Picassos and Monets of the convicted art forger John Myatt as contemporary art. Moreover, how recently produced would an artwork need to be, in order to be considered ‘contemporary’? Yesterday? Last year? Or a decade ago? The issue has, for years, drawn the interest of art theorists like Giorgio Agamben, Arthur Danto, Terry Smith and Peter Osborne, all of whom have made the issue of contemporaneity central to their thought. Evidently, contemporary artworks do not simply denote works that are contemporaneous with a given historical time. Nor are they simply those that succeed the ‘modern’ era of 1880-1960. Rather, the conceit is a means of promoting or excluding certain things and practices according to their ability to respond to particular aspects of the present. It has a critical function that involves special ways of relating to history and one’s own time. Contemporary artworks are those that engage with a philosophy of time; they are able to critique their own era in some way and, in this sense, they operate cum tempus i.e. with or ‘by means of’ time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGiusto in Tempo: Pensare il Contemporaneo
Subtitle of host publicationJust in Time: Theorising the Contemporary
EditorsAisling Reid, Valentina Surace
Place of PublicationMilan
Number of pages3
ISBN (Print)97888697774171
Publication statusAccepted - 01 Jan 2023


  • Contemporary
  • Art
  • Theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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