A guide to identifying modern art

Photo by Tony Reid on Unsplash

Modern art is something extremely personal. One person might be moved to near tears by an abstract painting while another just sees a splatter of paint that resembles something a toddler might have made.

We can’t teach you how to “understand” modern art but here are some simple ways to identify what kind of art it is you are looking at.

Found Object

If you walk into an art gallery and see an everyday object like a toilet or a light bulb, you might be wondering what is going on. ‘Found Object’ art is when artist express their ideas through ordinary objects.

Abstract Impressionism

Is the painting a splatter of colors, rather than an accurate picture? It’s probably impressionism.

Pop Art

Think Andy Warhol. Loud, cartoonish and often brightly colored art challenged the fine art movement in the 1950s.

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You’ve probably heard of the surrealist Salvador Dali. His paintings are bizarre and often frightening, like something out of a dream world.

Performance Art

Performance art usually involves the artist or their model. The artist uses their body to convey their ideas, often in strange and unexplained ways.


Constructivism is art which usually consists of a number of neat blocks arranged on the canvas and not much else.