Modern art as we know it has run its course. The visual giants of the last century such as painting, sculpture, and movies have greatly diminished in cultural importance. For the sake of my argument and to aid a simpler perspective and understanding, I’m combining modern art and contemporary art as one. I’m defining the modern art movement as starting somewhere around 1890. I believe the movement ended around 1990, and interestingly enough, this incidentally coincides with the ascent of architecture and the new digital technologies that are propelling it forward.
As an art movement, modern art was very powerful, changing our culture and our view of art and design. However, things that were once considered very revolutionary and experimental now seem very blasé and accepted by everybody. Today, we’re familiar with some of these movements—cubism, surrealism, action painting, pop art, conceptual art, movies, even video installations. Yet all these visual arts in terms of impact have greatly faded away in recent years. Scale counts. For example, movies are often viewed on YouTube and tablets–the scale is becoming smaller and smaller. Nothing is wrong with these technologies. I utilize them myself, but the point is that everything is small, fast, quick, and gone. Film remains a great art form, but how often do people go to the movies in this age as compared to the 1950s or 1960s or 1970s or even 1980s? Another example is pop art. Any Warhol’s concepts and visuals are often seen through commercially broad outlets such as in Target commercials, proving that the mass market has completely absorbed these experiences and, by doing so, has watered them down. Even take into account photography and how millions of people simply use their iPhones to snap pictures on the go. It’s all fast and furious. But inspirational and breathtaking? Hardly.
There are winners and losers in the world of digital technology, and it is my belief that much of the visual arts are losers as proven in the examples above. However, the long term winner of this generation is architecture. It is the last of the cultural and visual giants. Architecture in the 21st century as an art is on the ascent. It’s a beautiful art form. With the help of digital technology, it is breaking all the molds of how architecture is conceived, much like the 20th century visual art movement. It’s experimental, breathtaking, and inspirational, and it’s just getting started. My view is that architecture in the 21st century will be even more powerful than the Kandinsky’s, Picasso’s, the Pollock’s, and the de Kooning’s.
Lastly, my own personal experiences have also changed as an artist. For example, going down for jury duty downtown, I was almost late because as I was walking, a huge metallic building of great beauty was in my sight. The power of that building was more powerful than anything that I have seen in a regular art museum in years, and when a building can be more interesting than the art work that may be inside it, that definitely implies a paradigm shift.
This experimental and innovative architectural movement is truly international in scope as well. These are just a few of the architects and designers that have changed the future and will continue to change the future of architecture: Frank Gehry, Rand Elliot, Zaha Hadid, Dominque Jakob, Brendan MacFarlane, Giancarlo Mazzanti, Bassamel Okeily, Changki Yun, Ron Arad, Lisa Iwamoto, Craig Scott, Brennan Buck, David Freeland, and Nada Andric. These architects will have it all. Architecture will be the dominant art form of the 21st century. Dramatic, complex, and unique.
David Katz is an artist and designer based in Marina Del Rey, California.