Modern and Contemporary Art Research Guide

The Modern and Contemporary Art Research Guide is a select list of resources for students, teachers, and researchers to learn about modern and contemporary art, and links to resources on the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's collections and history. This guide is not an exhaustive list about international modern and contemporary art.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Resources

  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden:  Homepage for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The site includes information for planning a visit to the museum, a digital collection to view anywhere, and a calendar of upcoming events.
  • Hirshhorn Library:  Homepage for the Smithsonian Libraries Hirshhorn Library. The site includes information about planning a research visit, a description of our special collections, and links to our online catalog to view anywhere.
  • Hirshhorn Collections Search:  Search the art and artists in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gallery collection by artist name, title, or attribute, such as "portrait," "red," or "abstract." Available to view anywhere.
  • Hirshhorn Eye (Hi for short):  The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's award-winning, in-gallery art guide that uses image recognition to scan art as you go, unlocking exclusive artist videos and insider info. Connect with contemporary art like never before. Scan artworks and see eye to eye with artists, instantly.
  • Hirshhorn's YouTube Channel:  The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's YouTube channel, featuring artist interviews, lectures, and behind-the-scenes videos. 
  • Hirshhorn Museum Library Audio Archive:  A repository of 306 digital audio files reformatted from audio cassettes ranging in date from 1969 to 2004, containing event recordings and interviews dating back to the founding days of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, interviews of renowned modern and contemporary artists, lectures and symposium focusing on significant themes in 20th century art. For copyright reasons the full recordings are only available at the library and cannot be copied.
  • Hirshhorn's ARTLAB+:  A radically inclusive, free after-school digital arts program for teenagers between 13 and 19.
  • Historical Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden documents at the Smithsonian Archives:  The majority of documents on the history of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden have been transferred to the Smithsonian Institution Archives. On the Archives website, you will find a synopsis and chronology of the museum's history, a bibliography, historic images, and a finding aid for the Hirshhorn records. 
  • Hirshhorn History Reading List:  A bibliography on the history of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. 
  • The Founding Donor:  A brief biography of the museum's founder, Joseph H. Hirshhorn.
  • The Architect:  A brief biography of the architect of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Gordon Bunschaft, plus a synopsis of the design concept and siting of the museum, and technical information about the building. 
  • History of the Hirshhorn Library, Part 1, Part 2:  An interview with the first Hirshhorn Librarian, Anna Brooke, who headed the research collection from 1971 until 2016. 

Select Websites

  • ArtNet:  ArtNet is an art market tool with current information on prices, trends, news and analysis, but it also provides brief bios on artists and images of their work. The "view to scale" feature on many images is particularly useful in placing the size of an artist's work in context.
  • The Art Story:  A non-profit art association that attempts to demystify modern art and further art appreciation for non-experts. Provides timelines and clearly written topic pages on artists, movements, and ideas in art from approximately 1850 to 1980.
  • Artsy:  Artsy is a site that connects collectors to art, offering artwork for sale, but it also maintains a magazine and artist profiles. Their Art Genome Project is particularly powerful tool that maps characteristics connecting artists, artworks, architecture, and design objects across history. You can explore artists and artwork grouped by a myriad of facets, including subject matter, e.g., "related to games;" visual qualities, e.g., "biomorphic;" medium and technique; time period; geographic regions as specific as "Brooklyn;" and an exhaustive list of styles and movements.
  • Google Arts and Culture:  Discover art, collections, and stories from around the world. Zoom in on cultural treasures in extraordinary detail.
  • Smarthistory:  A non-profit website that provides conversational videos and essays covering art and cultural objects that range from the paleolithic to the present, using objects from world-class museums and cultural sites.
  • Tate Modern Art Terms:  Definitions, most with illustrations, of over 400 terms including artist groups and art movements, techniques, media and other art jargon.
  • Timeline of Art History:  The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History pairs essays and works of art with chronologies, telling the story of art and global culture through the Museum’s collection.

Video Channels

Art World News

  • ArtAsiaPacific:  ArtAsiaPacific magazine is the leading English-language periodical covering contemporary art and culture from Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East.
  •  Considered the Vogue of the art world, this magazine which grew out of the West Coast art scene in the 1960s now covers the world's major art scenes and personalities.
  • ArtNet:  ArtNet is an art market tool with current information on prices, trends, news and analysis, but it also provides brief bios on artists and images of their work. The "view to scale" feature on many images is particularly useful in placing the size of an artist's work in context.
  •  The oldest art magazine in the world continues its legacy with extensive digital content.
  • The Art Newspaper:  The Wall Street Journal of the art world, The Art Newspaper covers major economic and political developments in art, in addition to reviews of exhibitions and art fairs.
  • ArtNexus: ArtNexus is the leading magazine to cover the contemporary art of Latin America.
  • Black Art in America:  Black Art in America is a media company that promotes contributions of the African American arts community. Much of the site is devoted to connecting collectors to art, but it also maintains free news articles and offers some educational resources. Some content is behind a paywall.
  • Contemporary And América Latina:  A dynamic, critical art magazine focusing on the connection between Afro-Latin America, The Caribbean and Africa.
  • Culture Type:  Explores art by and about people of African descent, primarily through the lens of books, magazines and catalogs. Features original research and reporting, plus news collected from the web.
  •  The website of the influential annual art fairs in London and New York maintains news and editorials on the contemporary art world.
  • Hyperallergic:  Popular art criticism self-described as "a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking."
  • Sugarcane Magazine:  A Black art and culture media company that focuses on the visual and performing arts from Africa and the African diaspora.
  • Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art:  Presents news, reviews, and interviews by seasoned and upcoming art journalists and writers.

Smithsonian Arts Education

Additional Smithsonian Resources

Appraisal Services or "How much is my art worth?"

A professional code of ethics prevents library or museum staff from offering authentication or valuation on works of art. Libraries may be able to supply you with information from which you may draw your own conclusions, using tools such as auction databases, catalogues raisonné, and other provenance reference tools. 

The book Art Market Research : a guide to methods and sources by Tom McNulty (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2014) explores library research methods that can help you identify artwork and estimate its value. 

If you would like to learn more about a work of art in your collection, you may want to contact a professional appraiser. Prior to contacting a library or appraiser, we recommend taking detailed measurements and obtaining high quality photographs of original works of art, both front and back, with close ups of any signatures, dates, stamps, or stickers. 

Last Updated October 6, 2023