The contemporary period as yet has no specific name, and is not dominated by any singular practice, movement or general tendency as was the case with Post-Modernism. Even though in many ways it is an ambiguous period, it is marked by some over-arching tendencies. Contemporary works tend to be open-ended both in their meaning (if any singular meaning is even possible) and in their form (many works are either site-specific or designed to change into something different over time) and exhibition-dependent—they exist only because a gallery/museum sponsored their creation, or they need such placement to be recognized as art works.
Contemporary art in general also tends to present a flatness of affect—it is neither particularly emotionally engaging, nor is it particularly expressive of emotion—as well as treating all history, even recent art history and popular culture, as both materials to draw from in making art, and as irrelevant to art: within this context, some earlier approaches continue to gain in visibility and importance: art that draws from graffiti and street-culture, video and “new media” (i.e. computers) have become “old media,” and painting and photography appear to have resolved some of their long-standing conflicts that began when photography supplanted painting’s role as documentarian in the nineteenth century.
Yet, in many respects Contemporary Art is as specific and particular as Post-Modernism; however, because the contemporary world is still fluid and in-progress, identifying which features are going to define the present remains a prospect akin to fortune-telling in its tendency towards total error.