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Canadian Contemporary Art can refer simply to any visual art made in Canada currently or by living Canadian artists. However, it is a term that more accurately refers to Canadian visual, media, performance, video, and other artistic and/or conceptual practices that are critically and intellectually engaged and that deliberately address both a local and global context. One might further define it by the intended audience and expected venues for its exhibition and display: public galleries, art museums, artist-run centres, certain commercial galleries, etc.
There has been much debate over whether such a national style, philosophical outlook, or unified and cohesive culture exists or ever has existed within Canada. It is large geographically, with many distinct regions, and its population is diverse and is made up of varying national and ethnic backgrounds. Also, as traditional distinctions between "high art" and "low" and "popular" art seem to be becoming less clear, the task of locating one or even a few common characteristics of Canadian art or culture becomes difficult.
There are, however, a few notable moments when Canadian contemporary artists – as individuals or groups – have distinguished themselves through commonality, international recognition, collaboration, or zeitgeist:
- The Vancouver School of Photo-Conceptualism (artists include Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, Stan Douglas, Iain Baxter)
- The Royal Art Lodge (whose most famous member is Marcel Dzama, centred in Winnipeg, Manitoba)
- NSCAD University or Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, where through the presence of painter Eric Fischl and other notable international visitors such as Joseph Beuys, Dan Graham and Lawrence Weiner in the 1970s a reputation was established as an innovative, radical, and theory driven incubator of new art.
- The success of the career of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, who represented Canada at the 49th Venice Biennial in 2001
- The conceptually-based artistic practice of Michael Snow
- CCCA A list of living Canadian artists with examples of their work at the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art Database