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Toward a global culture

This is the era of "isms." Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Rayonism, Orphism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and there are more. The avant-garde is unleashed in the 20th century and explores both abstraction and representation as a means to "represent" the radical changes, violence, alienation, and beauty that characterize the century. Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker of Smarthistory together with leading art historians, and our museum partners have created hundreds of short engaging conversational videos and articles, making Khan Academy one of the most accessible and extensive resources for the study of the history of art.
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A thumbnail for: A beginner's guide to 20th and 21st century art

A beginner's guide to 20th and 21st century art

If abstract art puzzles you, this is a great place to start.
A thumbnail for: Early abstraction: Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism

Early abstraction: Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism

Here you'll find tutorials on Henri Matisse and Fauvism, the German Expressionists, Picasso and Cubism, and the Italian Futurists. In many ways, these artists crated the first painting since the renaissance to fundamentally rethink the perspectival systems of representation developed during the Renaissance.
A thumbnail for: World War I and Dada

World War I and Dada

Thanks in part to advances in the technology of weaponry, the Great War lasted far longer and was far more lethal then anyone had imagined. The First World War is widely seen as a catalyst that shattered the old Imperial order causing widespread political, economic and social disruptions both good and ill.
A thumbnail for: Art between the wars: the avant-garde and the rise of totalitarianism

Art between the wars: the avant-garde and the rise of totalitarianism

The period between the end of WWI in 1918 and the start of WWII in 1939 was one of the most creative in the history of Modernism. Against the catastrophic backdrop of global economic depression, the rise of ideologies of violence and leaders such as Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco artists experimented with pure abstraction and other innovations as a means to deal with the complexity of the world around them.
A thumbnail for: Abstract Expressionism and the New York School

Abstract Expressionism and the New York School

Several art historians have argued that in the aftermath of WWII, the center of the art world shifted from Paris to New York. New York City had never been a particularly important center of art by international standards despite the fact that the Hudson River School, Tiffany's studios, the Ashcan school, and Stieglitz's 291 gallery all called New York home. This changed after the war when Europe was in ruins and many of its most illustrious intellectuals and artists had relocated to the United States. It was in this environment that a group of artists including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and others transformed the way we understand painting creating the first internationally significant American art movement, Abstract Expressionism.
A thumbnail for: Architecture in the early 20th century

Architecture in the early 20th century

What about architecture? The 20th century saw the development of a radical new architecture that broke with the traditional understanding handcrafted structures and, building on 19th century industrial innovations, began to see even the private home as a machine for living. Utopian ideas powered efforts to provide a higher standard of living for the poor and middle classes through design resulting in standardized rectilinear buildings of glass and steel that have reshaped our urban environment and become, for some, an expression of modern alienation.
A thumbnail for: Pop


Bang! Sale! New! Pop art asks a simple question; what does authentic art look like in a society where low commercial culture dominates nearly everything. One of the constants of art's history is that it is an expression of its time, the deep faith of medieval Europe or the Neoclassicism of the the Enlightenment for example. So what might art look like in an era of mass produced food and entertainment (think TV-dinners and TVs)? Pop art crashed the gates of high culture with the tawdry world we lived in everyday but importantly also kept its distance with irony and deep skepticism.
A thumbnail for: Minimalism and Earthworks

Minimalism and Earthworks

Minimalism, ABC art, Primary Structures are some of the terms given to the simple machined forms of Donald Judd, the earthworks of Robert Smithson and the public wrapping created by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. For many people this is some of the most cryptic works of art ever made. How, for example can a box made of unadorned plywood have meaning? Despite its name and seeming simplicity these artists have profound and complex questions about the very nature of art in the modern world.
A thumbnail for: Identity, the body and the subversion of Modernism

Identity, the body and the subversion of Modernism

During the second half of the 20th century, colonialism was replaced by the polarized political landscape of the cold war. In wealthy nations liberation meant something entirely different as war in southeast Asia, racism and sexism, and intolerance of gays lead to unprecedented activism. Art that explored the body and the construction of identity itself asked biting questions about those harmed by the status quo and the role that art played in supporting those conventions.
A thumbnail for: Conceptual and Performance art

Conceptual and Performance art

Does art need to be a physical thing in the world. Must it be an object made of stone or canvas or could it be an idea enacted, a process followed, an environment inhabited or even a bit of nature framed and isolated so that it is transformed.
A thumbnail for: Global art and architecture in 21st century

Global art and architecture in 21st century

Culture, like capitalism, is increasingly global. Leading artists and architects work internationally and the idea that a single city could function as the center of the art world now seems impossible. New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London remain important but Berlin, Warsaw, Istanbul, Seoul, Beijing, Bogotá, Beirut, Lagos, New Delhi, Johannesburg, São Paulo and Johannesburg and many others all support thriving communities of artists.