Contemporary art trends over the next decade

Identifying recent art trends is tough enough – we can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. Everything around us is so different and madly off in all directions, but art trends emerge clearly upon retrospect over time with the comforting tilt-shift vision of art history. Though I can see trends in current art making, I accept the fact I cannot perceive some (if not most) of the important developments in contemporary work around me.

In a sense a collector is investing in a perceived future trend when he or she buys a work – an inherent hope that you are planting your flag into the tip of an iceberg. Rooted in the practice of the present, we attempt to interpret current art with an informed art history eye as well as an abstract projection of various departure points for this work, this artist.

So with the recent slew of  art-in-the-last-ten-years reviews, this blog has decided to boldly scrutinize the last tens years in an attempt to divine the next ten years in contemporary art.

Being an artist who writes, I am perfectly allowed to attempt such leaps of bold lateral logic.

Top 10 art trends over the next ten years (they are all erringly connected):

10. Much of 2000-2009 was creating new media work that referred to itself as a something that was built with new technology. And why not? Artists typically work with the trailing edge of technology (when it becomes cheap and abundantly available) and this decade saw the cheap and abundantly available internet and computer technology become available to …. well, anyone with the time and determination to work with it. There was time to play with it and participate in its development – an opportunity for artists unseen since the invention of the printing press. What does this mean for 2010-2019? Working with new media will become more subtle, intuitive and embedded in the design of the environment, not as the environment itself. Think things appearing when interacted with, as opposed to seeing a gallery room full of wires, bulbs, speakers and computers. Such as….

9. social media : Speaking of working with technology for the sake of working with technology, social media has become a gold rush of sorts for the ambitious imagination. To demonstrate this, I put forward the question of
art trends over the next decade via twitter and tumblr and received an overwhelming affirmation of envisioning mass collaborations of  artist and work via (drum roll) social media! Crowd-sourced art projects that are essentially artists working with the newest technology. I do agree with this to a large extent but it’s like arguing that artists will use the phone or mail to collaborate. I see more art about the destination rather than the vehicle. Think less social media based art projects involving thousands of people and more that 1000’s of people will support and promote individual artists via social media.

Spawning thusly….

8. art salon (tribes) : Ok, so the super-rich clusters of collectors and art dealers have defined the last 20 years to most of us. Where they are located was everything i.e. New York, London, Paris. What they bought informed the rest of us what to aspire to buy and what to create. Things are turning upside down from this model as art collecting is hot among young professionals but for the first time in art history without a dominating influence by the cabals of aforementioned collectors, art dealers and location, location, location.  The mob rules, and the shift to art collecting will continue into the local and by turn will launch some into international stardom without having ever had a show or sold a work. Communities that collect and support will promote the arts they invest in, and this means social functions and a fusion of music, entertainment and gallery space into a multi-purpose environment that hearkens back to the salon days of the 18th century. This community does not have to be physical, which brings us to ….

7. 20×200: I hate mechanical reproductions of paintings as much as anybody. However, when artists create digital work specifically for reproduction then count me in! Just keep the editions limited enough to stay on this side of “object” ok? Creating on online gallery and selling work there is nothing new, it’s just not that viable. But the 20×200 model in New York has captured venture capitalist attention as it is proving very viable  and measurable. What was I saying before about the influence on art history shifting away from the dealer and collector to the masses? That’s right, you will see artists and trends rise to significant prominence based on what works on these new website models, and you’ll see dealers and collectors following the cultural mob instead of leading it. Art will be more popular over the next 10 years than ever before.

6. imperfectionism, earthy art and the unreproducible : counter-reactions to trends are very significant. It is easy enough to logically extend what is happening now, but not everyone will feel the same way. Enter ceramics, fibers and working with environment within a tenacious and well documented process. Trust in the natural object may define the next decade as much as distrust in the image defined the last. Mix environmental concerns, group participation and the need for some sort of performance work and there should be some really interesting crowd-sourced craft work happening on weekends near you. The old aesthetic guard will retreat here and prosper with a new generation of like-minded artists and supporters.

5. Shorter text, deeper images: A picture is worth a thousand spell-checks, and the nature of how we see art via social media will influence the writing to be short and catchy, and the image worth studying for a few seconds more. The mob does not like lengthy academic text or verbose art critics – they like brevity, credit for their intelligence and bloggers who present interesting art.

4. The web will be 90% video: A sobering thought. Imagine a million monkeys on a million typewriters and then replace the typewriters with video cameras. I can’t imagine the wonderful things that will happen, but certainly if art history progresses through a series of happy accidents then the current working philosophies of absurdism, randomness and the deeply personal (so personal it defies criticism and formal aesthetics) will continue as a billion people armed with cameras on mobile devices around the world go through their own personal art renaissance. Did I mention the mob rules?

3. Abstract Art: There will be a swing back to abstract work over the next ten years, with an emphasis on them as graphs / maps / charts of information by really good designers and illustrators.

2. Virtual Art Tours: Mobile devices, proximity marketing and text / voice tours of local galleries. Huge beyond belief, but brings back “location, location, location”.

And the number #1 art trend over the next ten years …

1. Corporate sponsorship of artist, galleries and art schools. The new currency is traffic and popularity – and that currency is cashed by it’s worth in marketing. Creative solutions to problems and visual literacy continue to grow as highly desirable skills and the talent in this area will represent companies via advertising. Not their art, exactly as the old model of the corporate art collection would dictate, but the co-branding of the art as it rises in popularity due to its media-worthiness. Some shallow, punch-line art to be sure but also deeply sustained and developed bodies of work. Don’t worry, the recession in 2021 will derail all this.

thanks to fellow art bloggers notational, msnetworknews, viviopsis and manifesto-art for their feedback that helped shape this post.

here’s some bold bonus materials / methods predictions as well:

1. nanotechnology
2. electronic ink
3. memory materials (foam, wire)
4.  robots
5. virtual robots
6. identity sharing
7. immortality as performance
8. auto-creation technologies of personal music / design
9. mobile habitats

I am very aware that at this time we were supposed to have robot slaves doing menial work for us, flying cars and settlements on Mars. So who knows what will really happen but I am hoping this will be a very amusing post in ten years 😉

Happy new year everyone!


  1. Matt L · January 1, 2010

    Hey great list. I was just wondering what made you say #3?

    • artlistpro · January 1, 2010

      Hi Matt – if you mean #3 memory foam and wire, then I said that because new materials and exploring the movement of the figurative is a constant throughout history. I think most people interpret concepts and images by imagining their bodies in it, and understand art that clearly demonstrates a physical interaction, empathy through labour. There is a term for that I can’t think of at the moment. Anyways, that’s another post…

      if you mean #3 a return to abstract art, then I said that because I was taught in art school that there is always a general shift between figurative and abstract every decade. I found the 00’s to be more focused on the figurative, and see primary concern during the 10’s as being able to quickly interpret large amounts of information. As a general shift to abstract, works based on displaying data seems like a neat possible trend to me.

      • Matt L · January 2, 2010

        oh ok, thanks that makes a lot of sense.

  2. hate to be you because · January 23, 2010

    Saw your blog bookmarked on Delicious.

  3. Chris Deards · February 20, 2010

    Hello Matt, (he that’s your name)
    Very interested with what you’ve said but my thoughts are that over the next ten years art trends will move away from abstraction and technology. I believe that there will be a trend towards more figurative work and realism. My own work has already moved in that direction, although modern and contempary in nature. I would like to keep this debate alive so look forward to your reply.

    • artlistpro · February 24, 2010

      Hey Chris – my name is Chris too, btw.

      I agree there will be a strong trend towards figurative work as a counter-reaction towards the larger trend of technology and “abstract realism” of understanding the world of data around us.

      I just can’t see realism in traditional figurative work being viable in interest over the next while, though. work that interests and “wows” the contemporary world would seem more likely to belong firmly in emerging technologies and the artists exploring it.

      What I am noticing right now – shiny, flashing and immersive environments in the galleries around Toronto. Lots of black on white delicate imagery (installations, drawings, fashion) popular on the social media front.

  4. james abuan · December 23, 2011

    Technology will rule as a trend and its use will mostly likely be a statement in itself, however, in my opinion it will continue to be a “blank canvas” waiting for something to look at – and that could be anything – unless there is a breakthrough. I still adhere to “if everything is art, nothing is.”

  5. Carmen Melendez-Lugo · January 11, 2012

    Mr. Bellemare is killing me! His response could have been lifted word-by-word from an essay by Clement Greenberg. Back then, figurative art was in its deathbed, too. And we all know how well that held up. Oh, please, stop taking what you personally like so seriously and accept once and for all, there’s something for everyone. We are all different, and so should be art.

    • Carmen Melendez-Lugo · January 11, 2012

      BTW, very insightful, interesting article. Very well written.

      • artlistpro · January 14, 2012

        Thanks Carmen! tempting to update it but determined to preserve the predictions for a looksee years from now.

    • artlistpro · January 14, 2012

      oh there is much more to the story about this guy – check this story about him

    • Kayla · April 23, 2014

      I do agree and hope that there is a broadening in the variety of art that is allowed and enjoyed….We also have to keep in mind that while certain movements may be most popular for a while, there are still other movements during the time period and those may very well grow ‘to surpass’ the current movement. Though I think looking at art in movements sort of pushes out the art that didn’t exactly make it into that ….

  6. jcreiger · April 30, 2012

    Interesting site to watch, let me know if you would like to publish your 10 predictions for art trends on our blog.

  7. James McNulty · June 8, 2012


    These works represent genuine, authentic & truly inspired.”Firework Shows” in the realm of Fine Art!!.

    This presentation is simply too profound to be addressed as anything but the most “Sensational” exhibit/documentary in recent Art History (160 years).!!

    It all began with a “Zen enlightened experience”, inspired by the “Ritual of Celebration”, itself, when I was 5 years old .


    “The Graphic Art history of Celebration ”

    Chinese Firecracker, – “FIREWORK ART DISPLAY” (ca.1850-present)

    This presentation has evolved into a unique & exclusive,world wide documentary on “The Art of Celebration”
    It’s finely detailed graphic imagery + fauvist colors have been part & parcel to the rituals of celebrations,birthdays,National holidays weddings,New Years, ,around the globe,for the last 160+ years.
    This extraordinarily unique medium, which encompasses the entire (graphic Art History of fireworks, 1850s-present),is unprecedented, as well as the interpretive breakthrough in organizing advertising
    art :(ie) a collage technique of assigning elemental values to the various colored wrapping papers,(water=blue, land=green, & sky=varied colors), &
    juxtaposing them with labels of similar themes.
    Please regard : for imagery & more details short film (3min 50 sec} under “Professional Details” ,
    (F.Y.I), The printed imagery on “logo” firecrackers were exploding into “smithereens”,(1930’s), before the “POP ART”/”New Realist” movement was invented, in the late 50’s!!
    I have a sensational performance, (Fireworks), presentation as well…

  8. Amber Mitchell · August 21, 2012

    That sound so cool and very believable! 😀

  9. Kayla · April 23, 2014

    Though I do have to agree I think digital art is going to have its day as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see digital paintings next to traditional paintings in galleries….unless the galleries aren’t feeling the ‘not done by hand’ look…but technology is definitely coming to play.

    I also see a lot of mixed media sort of collage work that incorporates some element of technology within it.

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