What Kind of Art is Popular Today? (Styles & Mediums)

Art has always been an important part of society. Ever since the beginning of time, humans have found new ways to express themselves through art. Art can be anything from a painting on the wall, to a sculpture, a photograph, a sketch or even a poem. There have been many different types of art mediums, styles and techniques that have been popular throughout history, but what kind of art is popular today?

The most popular art today is commonly referred to as Contemporary Art. Contemporary art encompasses many styles including Modern, Abstract, Impressionism, Pop Art, Cubism, Surrealism, Fantasy, Graffiti, and Photorealism. Today’s popular mediums include painting, sculpture, mixed media, photography, and digital art.

New innovations with technology have influenced the different ways to create art in the modern era. New art mediums are making it possible for artists to think outside the box. Let’s take a closer look at today’s popular Contemporary Art styles and mediums.

Is contemporary art the art of today?

Contemporary art is a combination of different styles, methods, materials, and concepts. No single concept or ideology completely encapsulates this art style, and this is what sets contemporary art apart from past art eras. Its diversity of subjects and themes is what makes it stand out. Contemporary Art can be seen as a cultural framework for a dialogue about identity, family, community, and nationality.

A short documentary about Contemporary Art.

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Two professors at Oxford University studied contemporary art themes in 2012 and listed the most popular themes. These were about identity politics, the body, globalization and migration, technology, culture, time and memory, and institutional and political critique.

Maybe the lack of a single point of view or object can be seen as reflective of today’s world. It has developed and been formed in a global and culturally diverse world society with technical advancements creating many new possibilities. When exactly the era of Contemporary Art started, and when it ends, is an ongoing subject of debate because the current era overlaps with the modern art era, and we don’t know if we’ve seen its end. But it’s generally agreed that Contemporary Art had its beginning somewhere between the 1960s and 1970s.

Mediums included in contemporary art are basically all the mediums you can think of; there are no rules. But the most popular ones are painting, sculpture, photography, prints, and works on paper. The Contemporary Art Market Report recorded in 2020 that currently the most used mediums were painting at 65% and sculpture at 16%.

Nine classic art styles and their role today

There is so much freedom in today’s world to create art pieces according to any art style. Even though these art styles are not new, they are still popular and used by many artists today. The following styles are always inspiring artists, and this is what makes them so popular. Here is a list of 9 popular art styles that today’s artists have come to love:

  • Modern art and modernism can be defined as a new creative and experimenting way to respond to the use of traditional art. Modernism covers artworks from the 1860s to the 1970s. Take a look at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York with all its history and popularity.
An example of modern art.
Modern Art
  • Abstract art is a personal favorite of mine. It is an art style that seeks to achieve an effect rather than illustrate an accurate visual reality. For example, famous artist Piet Mondrian used geometric shapes, balancing them with black lines. The style is characterized by bright colors and playing with shapes. This movement began in the 1940s and 1950s after World War ll.
An example of abstract art.
Abstract Painting
  • Impressionist art is often considered to be the first modern movement, but it was actually a formal art practice first found in the 1860s in Paris, before spreading to Europe and the US. Impressionism tells a story with its work and illustrates according to the artist’s impression. It is characterized by small, thin brush strokes playing with light and movement.
An example of impressionist art.
Impressionist Art
  • Pop Art emerged in the 1950s and is still a favorite of all age groups. This style challenged traditional fine art with its imagery of popular culture to convey its irony. Pop art can also be seen as a reaction to the dominant abstract expressionism at the time.
An example of Pop Art.
Pop Art
  • Cubism Was started by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in the early 1900s. This style can be described as an abstract expression of realism representing a new reality. Artists would use geometrics, simultaneity, and passage to create this look.
An example of cubism.
  • Surrealism is an artform where objects are placed in situations where they really could not be placed. It’s free of consciousness and illustrates dream-like scenarios. This movement was between the 1920s and the 1950s.
An example of surrealism.
  • Fantasy art, also called Fantastic Art, has always been used to illustrate narratives from literature or tales. It explores fantasies, dreams, fiction, and visions, as well as Goth art. As we know it today, Fantasy art had its rise in the 1900s as it was requested in magazines and literature. However, this genre of art is not taught in any art school or shown in fine art galleries.
Fantasy Art
  • Graffiti and street art can be considered to be a developing form of popular art. Writing and drawing on walls dates back to ancient times, but graffiti, as we know it today, dates back to the late 1960s. Graffiti is characterized by big letters and colorful paintings in an open place with the goal of being seen by as many people as possible.
A graffiti street art example.
Street Art
  • Photorealism is a style of artwork where the artist’s copy a picture down to the most minute detail in a painting.  This art movement began in the 1980s by Richard Estes and Chuck Close and is also being used in art schools to improve an artist’s overall painting technique.
Photorealistic Painting

The role of technology as a medium for art

With the technological advances not only in paint and tools but also in cameras and computers, art has taken new forms. Digital art is an artistic practice since the 1960s that uses digital technology as part of its creation or presentation. This art form is included in new media art, which refers to all artworks created with new media technologies. Other art forms that use this new technology are computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, internet art, sound art, etc.

Photography is also a relatively new and popular art medium today. Ever since the first camera was invented in 1826, the interest in capturing art with it has only grown in popularity. Now photography is available to so many that maybe this visual art medium is the most used in our day.  Popular photography techniques and styles include documentary, landscape, portrait, figure and digital photography.

Old school art mediums still reign supreme

Even with the advent of the various digital mediums, many of the art mediums that have reigned throughout history are still going strong. Paintings and other classic art mediums are still popular mediums among artists today. Popular painting and drawing styles include tempera, oil painting, acrylic painting, watercolors, charcoal, pastels, chalk, graphic and colored pencils, as well as the classic pen and ink.

Sculpture is another historically popular art medium still used by artists today. Different types of sculpturing techniques are carving, casting, modeling and construction. Also, art sculpturing using glass has become more popular in contemporary art.

Popular mixed media techniques are collages, assemblages, found objects, and art journaling. These are used by artists wanting to express their aesthetic principles in an avant-garde type of way. It comes from the idea that anything can be used to create art.


There are so many artists and aspiring artists today using different kinds of mediums and art styles. The variety of mediums that we see in today’s contemporary art is very broad. The question of what kind of art is popular today in the western art world can be summed up as follows.

I have found ten popular art styles used in our day, which include: Contemporary art, Modern art, Abstract art, Impressionism, Pop Art, Cubism, Surrealism, Fantasy, Graffiti, and Photorealism.

While the number of art mediums in use today is virtually unlimited, there are a handful of mediums, such as, painting, sculpture, mixed media, photography, and digital artwork have proven to be the most popular in today’s contemporary art world.

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