Banksy Balloon Girl
Banksy Balloon Girl

Assessing contemporary art

Contemporary art, as it should, comes in many different forms.

Technically speaking, contemporary art is art produced from the late 20th century to now. It is an immense and diverse range of work. There are different approaches to assessing contemporary art, according to the different art experts.

As a contemporary painter, my advice differs slightly. I say, love it, hate it or be indifferent at your peril. That is art; it is as simple and subjective as that. However, I would prefer you hate my work than be indifferent and I think it is always worth the self-analysis – why do you hate or love something? And perhaps, why are you also indifferent?

We can look at the major attitudes surrounding the assessment and determination of value of contemporary art.

When assessing contemporary art, there are some “standards” by which you could judge and determine the value of a piece of artwork. Considerations include technical execution. Does the piece have strong composition, maximising (or minimising) the space or utilise the medium as much (or uniquely, as little) as possible.

Appropriateness. Is the work something which is “current” or just a passing phase, which is easily copied by other artists? Does it have unique characteristics or timeless relevance? Is the work too representative of the past in technique and style?

Creative innovative use of material. Does the artist offer a new vision within current methodology? Does an artist’s work “speak” to you personally? Does it evoke a lost memory or emotional state? Does it give you sense of calm? Excite, confuse, anger? Does the artist’s work carry a signature style, something noticeable, distinctive and immediately recognisable as their work?

The more quantitative approach also examines the artist’s resume and career. Emerging artists usually participate in group shows, and they often don’t have enough works to warrant an exclusive show. Mid-career artists have often achieved some recognition, with several pieces already sold and a few solo exhibitions under their belt. Established artists are those with stable careers, having sold works regularly over many years, and often have international notoriety.

Infinity Study
Infinity Study

Does the artist have works in a gallery and how many pieces are they selling and how regularly? Do you see prices of the artist’s work rising? How popular or well respected is the gallery representation? Just being represented by a gallery does not necessarily equate to a guarantee that the artist will be successful. In my own career, I have turned down more gallery offers than accepted. You have to have belief in your work and hold out to connect with the right gallery representation. There are as many bad galleries or exhibitions as bad art.

The creative nature of art also lends itself to differing views of assessing contemporary art. When determining value using less quantitative and more emotive means, artists, art students, and art enthusiasts provide different input; determining the artistic value (rather than simply monetary) of a work of contemporary art based more on gut instinct. For example, does the artwork invoke feelings in the audience or cause a strong reaction? Does it challenge their views with the subject matter, execution or presentation?

Does the artist find inspiration and beauty hidden in the everyday? It is common for contemporary artists to discover art in spaces often overlooked. Is the artist articulating a theme which cannot be explained with words, either too complex, divisive, or a general fear to explain it? Is there context to the work?

Due to the investment potential of art, there will always be a financial valuation to works which collectors will take into consideration when choosing pieces. There will be those who are driven to collect based on a work’s investment potential, while others select pieces based on personal reaction and a more gut subjective approach. There are also collectors who balance both.

By Durães-West
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Durães-West is a contemporary artist and painter living and working in Portugal. He paints large-scale abstract works at his new studio in the Alentejo. His work has attracted several collectors with major solo exhibitions in Lisbon, the Algarve, UK and the Middle East. He has two works owned and on permanent exhibition at MAU | Urban Art Museum, Taguspark, Oeiras.


Al-Tiba9 Gallery
Al-Tiba9 Gallery

Durães-West will be exhibiting at Al-Tiba9 Contemporary Gallery in Barcelona – opening on November 24, from 6pm to 9pm. The exhibition will be open to the public until January 7, 2024.