Somethings are hard to be distinguished from each other because of the precision in meaning. Just like the terms contemporary and modern in context of the art. If taken otherwise, contemporary and modern means somewhat same.
As per Google,
Contemporary refers to something belonging or occurring in the present, while modern means relating to the present or recent time as opposed to the remote past.
Although these definitions are directing towards similar interpretations in the literal sense, in the art community, the two words define something quite congruent.
Contemporary art is referred to as the artworks produced after the 1970s or the art pieces of our times. While under the umbrella of modern art come the works that were made between the mid of the 19th century and the 1960s.
Apart from the time epochs, there are other factors that separate the contemporary artworks from the modern paintings. Take a look:
The real difference: contemporary vs modern art
Conceptually, modern art and contemporary pieces are way different. For an instance, the whole sole point of the modernism was to reject the traditional methods of making artworks. Artists of the modernism movement were courageous and rebellious in the sense that traditionalists dominated the art world at that time.
Because of the commencement of the Industrial Revolution, artists ferociously started experimenting with the techniques, colours, shapes, and concepts of developing exquisite pieces. The entire focus was on the liberation of art pieces from the conventions and making something new and fresh.
Modern art is all about innovation and creation. The point to notice here is that even though modernists drifted away from the concept of crafting objects related to the real world, the focus was on to make something visually aesthetic.
Art movements like Cubism, Surrealism, Abstractionism, etc were all about generating fresh methods to create paintings, artefacts, etc. However, all these movements gave heavy weightage to the visual theory of art.
Contemporary art, on the other hand, is something totally contrasting. Artists developing the contemporary works were more focused on the process of making the pieces rather than the end results. That’s true, contemporary artworks are not about the visuals or the aesthetics but the idea and the philosophy behind the particular piece. That is why a simple spec kept on a wood table is also regarded as contemporary art.
Artists of the contemporary or present epoch are more focused on representing the changing times by providing a novel language correspondingly. There are no guidelines and no limitations. Everything and nothing is absolute with endless possibilities. Artists creating the contemporary pieces have zero goals or objectives unlikely the modern painters.
The diversification and the uncertain nature of the contemporary artworks are what make them totally disparate from the modern pieces. While modern art can be related to courage, experimentation, and objectives, contemporary is all about freedom, possibilities, and heterogeneity.