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Whether you’re a casual observer or an active investor, it’s always good to have a little background knowledge. So, with that in mind, here are a few key modern art terms worth remembering.

Bauhaus: Refers to a revolutionary German school of art, design and architecture. The school replaced the traditional idea of a teacher-and-pupil dynamic, and instead adopted the idea of a community of artists working together. Students embraced the ideas of Constructivism and became heavily influential, particularly in America where many of the artists escaped to before and during WWII.
Cubism: An artistic style created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Brague which focused on an exploration of geometry and perspective. Cubist art has a very unrealistic style incorporating multiple angles of a subject to create a fragmented and abstract image.
Constructivism: An austere form of abstract art created by Russians Vladimir Tatlin and Alexander Rodchenko in the early 20th century, based on the belief that art should reflect the modern industrial world. Tatlin in particular found inspiration in Picasso and created three-dimensional images using industrial materials. Constructivism has since become immensely influential in modern sculpture.
Dadaism: A movement from the 19th century which began to move away from rationalism, a pre-cursor to Surrealism and Neo-Dadaism.
Futurism: Created by Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti the futurism movement emphasized progress, speed, technology and military aggression. Futurist paintings tend to focus on scenes of movement.
Minimalism: An extreme form of abstract art developed in America during the sixties, Minimalist art is primarily composed of geometric shapes, in particular squares and rectangles.
Modernism: Essentially, Modernism means any kind of departure from the classical arts styles of the renaissance, and a rejection of the necessity to portray things in a realistic manner and themes of religious or historical documentation. It’s a movement which started in the late 19th Century and incorporates pretty much everything else on the list. It’s now generally used as a blanket term.
Neo-Dadaism: or Neo-Dada was an American movement in the fifties and sixties strongly reminiscent of the earlier Dada movement, still veering towards the absurd and a move towards anti-aesthetics utilizing collage and found materials.
Performance Art: A form of artistic expression. Artists perform a series of planned or improvised movements to express an idea. There’s a thin line between Performance Art and Dance or the Dramatic arts.
Postmodernism: A movement based on the premise art doesn’t have a fundamental truth, that works are open to interpretation based on personal experience.
Street Art: An art movement which sprang out of the emerging Hip-Hop scene of the late seventies. Originally referred to as “graffiti art”, the medium primarily used spray paint and was created in public spaces without authorization. In more recent years, artists have also used stencilling, tiles and other methods to create their illegal art. Although most of these artworks are created anonymously, artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey have broken into the mainstream.
Surrealism: A French movement established in the mid-20’s and founded in the idea to remove art from rationalism. Salvador Dali is probably most noteworthy practitioner of the form.
Time-based Media: An artform dependent on technology, usually created through video, audio, film, slides and/or computer imagery, with an emphasis on experiencing the art unfold over time. There have been examples of Time-based Media since the sixties from artists such as Bruce Nauman and Douglas Gordon.