Publication Details

McLean, I. A. 2014, 'The necessity of the new: between the modern and the contemporary', in N. Croggon and H. Hughes (eds), Three Reflections on Contemporary Art History, Discipline, Melbourne. pp. 15-52.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9780646920061


'"The contemporary" is a curious neologism,' observed James Meyer, as the definite article lends this 'adjective or noun denoting a shared temporality of persons, things, or events ... a new importance.' The definite article announced the art world's big discovery around the turn of the twenty-first century: that the word 'contemporary' had, like the term 'modern' before it, acquired a theoretical and, indeed, metaphysical density. The contemporary, as more than a few art critics say these days, is the new modern. To make this claim, whether as an act of succession or negation, is to invest in a loaded history. Ultimately, as a new conception of the new, the contemporary is a judgement on an old theory of the new, 'modernism.'